The family of Ralph B. Johnson hopes to hold a memorial in mid-June in Columbus for the former Muscogee County sheriff, according to a news conference Monday.
Johnson, who served the department for 26 years including nine as sheriff, died early Saturday of cancer in Hohenwald, Tenn. He was 61.
Muscogee County Sheriff Donna Tompkins said during a Monday news conference that she has been in contact with his family to discuss a local memorial, but no other details were available.
She recalled how Johnson focused on education and training throughout his career with the sheriff’s office and talked about the legacy he left behind.
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“He had a way of not only assigning people to what he thought people they would be good at, but maybe even stretching you out of your comfort zone,” she said. “He, I believe, had a way of seeing the diamonds in the rough.”
Born in 1956 in Columbus, Johnson was a graduate of Columbus High School. He attend Columbus College where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice. In 1998, he earned a master’s in public administration from Columbus State University.
He was a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Georgia Chiefs of Police Command College. He was appointed as sheriff in 1999 and won a special election in November 1999 to fill the unexpired term of Sheriff Gene Hodge. He was re-elected sheriff of Muscogee County in 2000 and in 2004.
Cassady Johnson Einglett, his daughter, said Saturday he spent the last year of his life growing vegetables in peace and quiet on a beautiful piece of property. “That man was my hero,” she said. “He held our family together under tremendous difficulties when my mom got sick and my brother and I both messed up. He waited for us to get right. He taught us and educated us. He was a mentor. He was the best person and he was stronger than anybody I know.”
He also was a good father and grandfather. “At the end of the day, he was a great man,” she said. “He did amazing things for that town.”
Emily Johnson, 62, said her husband was her caretaker for more than 23 years. She uses a wheelchair and can’t walk. He also took care of his mother after she retired and mother-in-law.
“I almost died,” she said. “The man is a saint in my eyes. I couldn’t have made it without him.”
After he was stricken with cancer, Emily said she took care of him. “He was a phenomenal person,” she said.
Before he died, he had multiple surgeries, radiation and plenty of pain. “When he died, he had fractures in every bone in his body,” she said. “I know he is not hurting and suffering any more.”