56 years. Longer than most of you have been alive.
Those were the words that got a chuckle out of gathered media at a Chatham County Sheriff’s news conference today. A brief moment of levity in the midst of sadness.
Al St Lawrence was a Police Chief, a Sheriff and the title used most, a man of integrity.
“I went on the County Police Department and was given a gun and a uniform that didn’t fit and told to go enforce the law..” remembered Al St Lawrence in a 2014 interview.
That’s how Al St Lawrence himself described his first experience on the Chatham County Police force, in 1959.
“When I first came on there were no radios in the cars,” said St Lawrence. “We had two door automobiles with no cages. What would happen if you put someone back there that didn’t want to stay there? You would have to fight them off.”
He would go to the FBI academy, learning more about his craft, eventually gaining the experience and knowledge to be named police chief in 1971.
“You feel a tremendous sense of responsibility…because you know we are the blue line out there so to speak,” said St Lawrence.
After 21 years on the job, it was time for a new position and a new challenge, as Sheriff of Chatham County.
There he oversaw an ever changing and growing department, and area.
“I didn’t agree with the merger, I never wanted to be a part of it,” remembered St Lawrence.
And the growing problem of jail overcrowding -which he took personally.
“I don’t think the jail expansion that we’ve seen can get done without Al St Lawrence if he hadn’t gotten involved in it,” said David Lyons, Garden City Police Chief.
Five consecutive terms in office, St Lawrence never lost sight of what was important. Family first… both in and out of uniform.
“He loved the (Georgia) Bulldogs,” said Roy Harris, Chatham County Chief Deputy and Interim Sheriff. “He loved his family at home and he loved coming to work and seeing the people here.”
While he wasn’t without controversy, most recently the deaths in Chatham County Jail and convictions of two deputies, St Lawrence will be remembered more for his longevity, his work ethic, and drive to do what he believe was best for the people of Chatham County.
‘He was always helping the deputies over there but when he put out an order he expected it to be followed.” said Pete Liakakis, Former Chatham County Commission Chairman.
“He was a steady hand that everyone regardless of what side of the political spectrum you were on knew that he was a man of integrity, says David Lyons, Garden City Police Chief. “and he was a strong man strong willed person and knew how to get things done.”
“His legacy is going to be that he put his entire life working and serving the people of Chatham County,” said Harris.
“There’s an old saying, if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life…” said St Lawrence.
St. Lawrence said he wanted this last term as sheriff to oversee the jail expansion and said he was not going to seek re-election in 2016.
Sheriff Al St Lawrence was the only man in Georgia to be named Police Chief of the year, and Sheriff of the year, which he won twice, including in 2015.
He is survived by his wife Pat, his six children, ten grandchildren, and six great grand children.
Visitation is from 4 until 7pm Tuesday, December 1st at Fox and Weeks Funeral Home on Hodgson Memorial Drive.
The funeral is one o’clock Wednesday, December 2nd at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
St. Lawrence will be buried in Bonaventure Cemetery .
Al St Lawrence was 81 years old.