I enjoy going through past copies of the Ledger/Georgia Cracker/Hazlehurst News, especially the really old ones.
Years ago, I got a letter from a person in Florida, seeking information about a relative, W.J Waters, who the writer said was shot and killed in Jeff Davis County in 1930 while serving as a law enforcement officer.
The story intrigued me so I went to the courthouse, and looked through the 1930 issues of the Hazlehurst News and found a story about county police officer Waters who was killed in the line of duty in November of that year.
Waters had gone to a rural Jeff Davis County home near Brooker (Denton) to serve a warrant on 20-year-old Grant Hinson, described as “a scion of one of the oldest families in Jeff Davis County.”
Waters and another man, Frank Alexander, waited outside the residence waiting on Hinson to go to bed and then they would arrest him. But, the two men’s presence stirred up some of Hinson’s hogs and, instead of going to bed, he grabbed his shotgun and went to investigate, thinking someone was stealing his hogs.
When he neared the hog pen, Waters jumped out to arrest him and, thinking he was a hog thief, Hinson fired his shotgun hitting Waters in the chest with a load of buckshot. Waters was 30 years old and left a wife and three children.
While at the courthouse, I researched the 1931 trial in which Hinson was tried and acquitted. Looking over the list of jurors serving at the trial, I found that one of them, whose name I can’t recall today, was still living. He was elderly, living with his daughter outside Hazlehurst. I called him and he remembered well the trial of Grant Hinson. He said the jury voted to acquit Hinson because “that boy didn’t know he was a policeman.”
What brought the old case back to mind was an email I got last week from Jason Deal, a reporter with The Blackshear Times. He had recently conducted a funeral for a friend, Wiley James Waters, who recently died in Wayne County at the age of 92. Wiley Waters was one of the three children W.J. Waters left behind when he was shot and killed.
Family members told Jason that Wiley James Waters had, in the past, a copy of an article about the shooting death in November, 1930, of his father, W.J. Waters. The family couldn’t find the old article and Jason called me to see if I could help.
Of course, I could and I did.
Jason sent me a copy of Wiley Waters’ obituary and reading it I learned that W.J. Waters’ wife remarried and moved to Tampa, Fla., where Wiley Waters grew up.
That makes me think that the article Wiley Waters had and the family couldn’t find, could very well have been the article I sent to W.J. Waters’ family member years ago in Florida.
Wiley James Waters went on to become a successful engineer, working for International Paper and Kraft Corrugated Container. He established a plumbing and rental property business in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and, at the age of 49, moved “back to his beloved south,” continuing his businesses in Atlanta before retiring to Lake Oconee. For the past 18 years, Waters lived in Jesup.
He served in the Navy during World War II, was a member of Sons of the American Revolution and was a 68-year member of the Masons.
He was the last surviving child of W.J. Waters as Sarah Ann Waters O’Conner and Henry E. Waters preceded him in death.