Tragedy enveloped the community Thursday night when an admired, longtime law enforcement officer died in a fiery accident at his home.
Walter Reed Hadley Jr., Georgia’s longest-serving chief deputy sheriff, died at his 17742 U.S. 319 North, residence when the flue in a wood-burning, stove-type heating unit malfunctioned about 7:15 p.m. Thursday
“The fire has been ruled accidental,” said Glen Allen, spokesman for Ralph Hudgens, Georgia insurance and fire commissioner.
Hadley was overcome by smoke that resulted from the malfunctioning flue, Allen said Friday.
Hadley, 85, attempted to put out the resulting fire, Allen explained.
Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell and Hadley worked together for more than three decades. In addition to working together, the two were close personal friends since childhood.
On Friday, Powell recalled that he was a deputy with the sheriff’s office when the NAACP wrote a letter to Thomas County commissioners in 1966, saying the sheriff’s office should be integrated.
County commissioners decided to hire a black deputy sheriff.
Powell told then-Sheriff C.A.. Rehberg he might know someone. Powell contacted Hadley, who was working at Archbold Memorial Hospital.
See Saturday's edition for more details.