With the referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot to change Walker County’s form of government from a sole commissioner to a board of commission-ers, it’s interesting to examine the history of the county’s form of gov-ernment.

County government records, plus a pictorial display on the first floor of the Walker County Courthouse in LaFayette, provide a written and pictorial timeline of county commissions from the late 1880s to the pre-sent.

In Georgia, the 1868 constitution authorized the General Assembly to create county commissioners (first called county ordinaries and often the probate judge of the county) “in such counties as may require them, and to define their duties.” Then the following year the General Assembly passed a local act creating the state's first “board of commissioners of roads and revenues,” a three-member commission for Harris County. By 1877 more than half of Georgia’s counties were governed by county commissioners rather than ordinaries, an early version of a sole commissioner. Today, all except nine of Georgia’s 159 counties (Bartow, Bleckley, Chattooga, Murray, Pulaski, Pickens, Towns, Union and Walker) have the board of commissioners (or commission) form of government.

In looking at the history of Walker County government, the county had a series of ordinaries from 1852 to the late 1950s, although these individuals were not always the sole governing official in the county. County records show the following ordinaries and their terms: James Hogue (1852-1860), T.R.A. Haslerig (1861-?), Thomas W. Cobb (1863-?), Milton Russell (1869-1884), W.B. Foster (1885-1896), J.L. Rowland (1897-1904), Jerome Henderson (1905-1908), W. Doarwe (1908-1914), W.L. Stancell (1914-1937), J.C. Keown (1937-1957), and W.L. Abney (1957-?).

Beginning in 1883 the county was run by a five-member commission serving two-year terms until 1916. Then the commissioners were elected for four-year terms until the form of government changed to sole com-missioner in 1940.

Walker County’s two-year commissions and their members were:

1883-1886 – L.K. Dickey, J.B. Rogers, William McWilliams, J.F. Smith, and N.G. Warthen;

1887-1888 – William McWilliams, J.F. Smith, J.B. Rogers, B.I. Glenn, and A.J. Caldwell;

1889-1890 – J.F. Smith, J.B. Rogers, A.J. Caldwell, William McWilliams, and B.I. Glenn;

1891-1892 – J.T. Alsobrook; C.A. Cameron, O.R. Henderson, T.N. Jones, and J.T. Suttle;

1893-1894 – J.F. Smith, R.B. Neal, T.J. Alsobrook, J.F. Bonds, and Jasper Love;

1895-1896 – J.F. Bonds, T.J. Alsobrook, Jasper Love, R.B. Neal, and N.C. Napier;

1897-1898 – R.B. Neal, N.C. Napier, T.J. Alsobrook, C.W. Evitt, and Jasper Love;

1899-1900 – R.B. Neal, James Weaver, J.M. Ransom, R.B. Shaw, and Gordon Lee;

1901-1902 – R.B. Neal, B.F. Thurman, James Weaver, R.B. Shaw, and W.A. Horton;

1903-1904 – J.B. Hall, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, W.A. Horton, and James Weaver;

1905-1906 – J.H. Hammond, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, T.F. McFarland, and James Weaver;

1907-1908 – James Weaver, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, John B. Hender-son, and T.J. Bandy;

1909-1910 – John B. Henderson, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, T.J. Bandy, and J.M. Ransom;

1911-1912 – John B. Henderson, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, J.V. Johnson, and J.M. Ransom;

1913-1914 – R.B. Shaw, J.M. Ransom, J.V. Johnson, J.D. McConnell, and J.C. Young;

1915-1916 – J.C. Young, J.M. Ransom, J.D. McConnell, A.J. Wheeler, (R.B. Shaw resigned), S.P. Hall.

During this time, 1883-1916, commissioners serving more than one two-year term were Shaw, 16+; Young, 14; Neal, 10; Ransom, 10; Weaver, 10; Smith, 8; Alsobrook, 8; Rogers, 6; McWilliams, 6; Love, 6; John B. Henderson, 6; Glenn, 4; Caldwell, 4; Bonds, 4; Napier, 4; Horton, 4; Bandy, 4; Johnson, 4; and McConnell, 4.

Starting in 1917, commission members were elected to four-year terms. Those terms and commissioners were:

1917-1920 – S.T. Carson, Claude Clements, R.V. Thurman, T.C. Coul-ter, (J.B. Henderson resigned), and James R. McFarland;

1921-1924 – Claude Clements, M.A. McConnell, S.P. Hall, W.S. Aber-crombie, and J.R. McFarland;

1925-1928 –J.H. Kilgore, C.M. Thurman, Clark Tucker, L.P. Keith, and G.R. Morgan;

1929-1932 – L.P. Keith, F.M. Shaw, J.H. Kilgore, W.R. Morgan, and C.A. Chambers;

1933-1936 – W.A. Loach, W.P. Blackwell, J.M. Baker, W.L. Johnson, and J.H. Williams (elected in Democratic Primary March 5, 1932);

1937-1940 – W.W. Garmany, Joe M. Baker, G.R. Morgan, R.D. Cubine, and W.P. Blackwell.

After Walker County residents voted to change the county form of gov-ernment to sole commissioner in 1940, those commissioners and their terms were:

1940-1952 – Fay Murphey, 3 terms

1953-1960 – Roland Mosely, 2 terms

1961-1964 – Albert Campbell, 1 term

1965-1972 – Bill Quinn, 2 terms

1973-1996 – Roy Parrish, 6 terms

1997-2000 – Buddy Chapman, 1 term

2001-2016 – Bebe Heiskell, 4 terms

2017-present – Shannon Whitfield

Dee Decker is editorial assistant and reporter for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga, and for the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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