News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Nov. 12, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Law enforcement officers from around the community are remembering former sheriff Charlie Webster who passed away over the weekend.
This all hits especially close to home for one Augusta commissioner.
Former Sheriff Charlie Webster mentored more than a generation of young law enforcement officers.
"He is probably the best man I have ever known," said Chief Jailer Major Gene Johnson.
"Best man you have ever known?" we inquired.
"In my life," responded Major Johnson with a smile. "And my father."
The words of praise did not stop with Major Johnson.
"In my 37 years of law enforcement, he is the best leader I have ever had," said Cpt. Chester Huffman.
Sheriff Webster was stricken down by a violent culprit -- cancer.
"He was what you call a sheriff's sheriff. He was a people person." Johnson said. "He had the people skills like nobody I have ever seen."
Those skills were put to good use during consolidation.
"He did everything except light a hoop on fire and jump through it to make sure that the city police were as welcome and felt to be a member of the team as any sheriff's deputy ever was," Huffman said.
That is partly why the news of his death is still hard to digest.
"His sudden illness was a surprise to probably everybody I know," Huffman said.
It hits especially close to home for Augusta's Public Safety Committee chairman.
"I'm kind of going through some of the similar things with my wife right now," said Commissioner Joe Jackson. "It is in God's hands."
Webster was 80. Jackson's wife is at least half that age.
"My concern is the children," Jackson said. "It is the understanding [part] because my mom passed away from cancer."
Jackson is now praying for the love of his life as he mourns the loss of a longtime friend and mentor.
"I'm just praying that God will answer with a miracle. If it's his will," Jackson said. "Maybe this is our ministry to show people you need to have a personal relationship with God."
Sheriff Ronnie Strength says he spent a great deal of time with Sheriff Webster in his final days.
"I was with him alone, and he said, 'I'm ready, son.' And he is. And we know where he is today," Strength said. "He died while he was sleeping. That was a relief to all of us. We did not want him to suffer."
Sheriff Webster always stood by Sheriff Strength.
"He has been there for me forever," Strength said.
It was no boss-employee relationship. It was more father-son interaction that has now been cut short at the hands of cancer.
"The shock of something like this all of a sudden," Strength said. "I had him one day, and I didn't have him the next."
Huffman is thankful for the opportunities afforded him by Webster.
"He sent me to the FBI academy," Huffman said. "He promoted me to captain, and he let me run this big old jail out here. I have never been prouder."
It is a multi-million dollar complex with a medical suite that is state of the art. Everything is automated, and the place is set for a $16 million expansion. The plan is to add a new inmate processing center.
"This is pretty high tech," we noted.
"It is the bomb," Huffman said. "This is as good as gets in the country."
Huffman says it is only appropriate for a sheriff who served 17 years.
"It is an awesome recognition. It says a lot for the man," he said. "He deserves that."
And yet, Webster never asked for the recognition.
"I've been with him when he paid water bills for people, when he paid mortgage payments for people," Strength said. "When he paid power bills for people that didn't have it to do."
Sheriff Webster was a humble spirit who is now in a better place, says Strength.
Webster's family will be visiting with friends Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Thomas Poteet and Son Funeral Home on Davis Road. He will have a graveside service on Tuesday at 11 a.m. The funeral will be at Westover Memorial Park.
His family is asking in lieu of flowers that you make donations to the Wounded Warrior Community Foundation or Golden Harvest Food Bank.