Judge pushes for highway memorials for troopers killed in the line of duty

benw@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 24, 2012 

Trooper William Gaines Andrews Jr. had just 15 minutes left on his Georgia State Patrol shift when he started pursuing a speeding vehicle on State Route 41 north of Talbotton.

Andrews, 32, of Manchester lost control of his patrol cruiser about 11:14 p.m. and struck a tree on May 7, 1977. He died of injuries sustained in the accident a day later.

For the last seven years, Columbus Recorder's Court Judge Michael Cielinski has launched an effort to make sure the sacrifices of Andrews and the more than 20 other troopers killed in the line of duty are not forgotten. Cielinski would like to see memorials placed along Georgia highways to remember the troopers who served in regions across the state.

"I'm not going to be satisfied until I get them all done," said Cielinski, who once served as an attorney for the Columbus Police Department from 1975-1981 before he started hearing traffic and felony cases in Recorder's Court.

As an attorney for the police department, Cielinski was usually called when local officers were involved in shootings or serious accidents. Because he was familiar with the family, Cielinski was called on that night more than 35 years ago when Andrews crashed into a large oak tree.

"I got called out to the scene," said Cielinski who brought the trooper's wife and family to the hospital. "The little boy wanted to see his dad."

A memorial for each trooper must be approved by the General Assembly. Capt. Paul Cosper, the legislative liaison for the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said that daunting task will start during the 2013 session.

From a list with 24 troopers names, Cosper said resolutions will be sought for 10 of the oldest names on the list during this session.

"We can't do them all in one year because it's a daunting task," Cosper said. "We felt like we could get 10 done. The first 10 are the oldest. That would remain 14 for the next year."

Cosper said he didn't see any road blocks but recognizes the legislative process is very time consuming.

"Once we get that done and get them signed into law, that is when the real work comes in getting the scheduling of events," he said.

A memorial will identify the trooper with his name on an intersection or memorial Highway. Cosper said his office would contact the families of troopers to determine the honor.

"My philosophy is we always contact the family and what would their wishes be," Cosper said. "It's really for the family."

An honor for Andrews isn't among the first 10 considered in the legislature next year. His name will be on the second list for approval in 2014.

If the process goes as planned for the first 10, Cosper said signs for memorials could probably go up in late June or July during the summer.

That process will continue the next year until all troopers are honored.

"Before it is all said and done, all those killed in the line of duty will have something done for them," Cosper said.

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