THOMASVILLE — Merrill E. Baker Jr. is being remembered for dedication to his church, for his public service and for doing what was in the best interest of the people he represented on the Thomas County Commission.
Baker, 78, died Wednesday morning.
A former Thomas County commissioner, Baker did not seek re-election in 2018 after serving 12 years.
He was succeeded on the commission by the Rev. Jeremy Rich, his pastor at First Missionary Baptist Church.
"He was a kind and concerned public servant who was always approachable to the citizens of this community," Rich said.
Baker was a 50-year trustee of the church and was ordained as a deacon in January.
A Thomasville native, Baker was married to Doris Calhoun Baker for 38 years.
Baker was captain of the Douglass High School football team in 1959-60, 2017 NAACP Citizen of the Year and named to the local Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
He retired from the U.S. Army at the rank of sergeant. He served as a paratrooper in the Vietnam Conflict.
Baker was a diesel mechanic at Sunnyland for 27 years.
Commissioner Ken Hickey and Baker were elected to the board at the same time and trained together.
"We built a real good friendship over the 12 years we served together," Hickey said.
Expressing admiration for Baker, Hickey said, "He will be missed greatly."
Wiley Grady, commission chairman, pointed out Baker's dedication to public service.
"He always had the interest of his constituents in mind," Grady said. "He voted in the best interest of the people he served."
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820