April 2, 2020

Georgia State Patrol celebrates oldest surviving trooper

Georgia State Troopers Captain J. Don Stultz (L) and Captain Dennis Dixon (R) shown here visiting with Georgia’s oldest surviving trooper Ret. Sgt. Jeff Terrell from Heard County

(Franklin, GA) — A Heard County native is being celebrated by the Georgia State Patrol as the oldest surviving member in the state.

Retired Sgt. James Franklin Terrell, Jr. (a.k.a. Jeff) celebrated his 93rd birthday earlier this week, and his son Stuart says the GSP have been amazing to his father, recently visited him at his nursing home in Carrollton where he has resided over the past few months with declining health.

Although retired, Terrell is still considered a hero by many current troopers following his huge sacrifice in the line of duty in 1969.

Trooper Jeff Terrell was shot at point-blank range near Noble, GA (just outside of Lafayette) on Valentine’s Day in 1969 by a double barrel shot-gun after spotting the vehicle of a couple of wanted felons. He was transported to Erlanger Hospital that day for emergency life-saving surgery.

Stuart was only in kindergarten at the time of his dad’s shooting but still remembers much of what happened. According to Stuart, the first words uttered by his father when he awoke from surgery were “Where’s my shirt?”

Jeff Terrell asked for the blood stained and ripped shirt to be displayed in his hospital room as motivation to not only get better but to get back to the job he loved — being a state patrolman.

Due to the damage from the shooting, Terrell was unable to return to active trooper duty and instead was promoted to Corporal where he was placed in charge of the Motor vehicle Inspections Division for Northwest Georgia. He was then promoted to Sergeant before taking medical retirement in 1972.

Ret. Sgt. James Terrell during his tour of a new state patrol car recently

One of his most memorable days on the force came in the 1960’s when he was tasked with guarding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. after he was taken into protective custody in Albany, GA during a civil rights march.

Mr. Terrell was born the son of a preacher and the youngest of eight children in 1924 in Heard County.

He graduated from Centralhatchee High School in 1943, and married the love of his life, Jollie Zane Pope (also a 1943 Centralhatchee graduate and later a school teacher).

They were married in the back of a school bus after he was drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII. He served his country for almost three years.

Mr. Terrell recently received the following heart-felt letter of appreciation from Captain J. Don Stultz (Troop A) in northwest Georgia which exemplifies just how meaningful his service was and just how much he is still appreciated even today by young members of the force.

Stultz first met Terrell when he was only a middle school student in Mrs. Terrell’s class.

Sgt. Terrell,

Many true leaders go through their career and never know the lives they influence in a positive manner. You are one of those leaders that influenced my life and career many years ago. I was one of Mrs. Terrell’s seventh grade students at the LaFayette Junior High School. I can remember to this day when you would come by the school. I remember the blue and gray patrol car, your uniform, and your larger-than-life stature. Just your presence caught the attention of each student in the school, you spoke volumes simply by driving your patrol car to the school and stepping out. I was always raised to respect the law, but Georgia State Troopers were special in my young eyes. Your actions helped influence me to do the right things in life, and become a Georgia State Trooper. I remember the day you bravely stopped two felons in a vehicle on U.S 27. north of LaFayette. You were mortally wounded by a shotgun blast. Later, I would hear the heroic story of your courageousness, survival, recovery, and desire to wear the blue and gray uniform again. The legend of that day and your heroic recovery are still talked about here in Troop A. I have often used you as an example to motivate young Troopers. I tell them of a Georgia Trooper that was larger than life. One that heroically survived a shotgun blast to the chest and face. A strong Trooper that wanted his bloody uniform shirt brought to his hospital room so that he could see it, as he professed that he was coming back to patrol again. A Trooper that had a positive influence on me as a student and throughout my career. Sergeant Terrell. you are the image and example that makes a Georgia State Trooper. Men like you are few and far between. Troopers of today stand on the shoulders of men like you. We are successful today due to the sacrifices you and the Troopers before us made. Truly sir, you are the Big Blue- Big Gray of the Georgia State Patrol. With your permission, I will continue to use the story of Sgt. Jeff Terrell for motivation of Troopers of today. Your influence has brought me through my career and continues to influence each member of Troop A. Thank you sir for your leadership, sacrifices, and bravery. 

— Captain J. Don Stultz

Stultz and another GSP Captain, Captain Dennis Dixon (Troop D), recently visited retired Sergeant Terrell at his nursing home in Carrollton and plans are in effect for someone from GSP to visit him on a regular basis.

Terrell also recently had guests in the form of four current troopers who gave him a special tour of a new patrol car. One of these visitors was Trooper Anthony Fuller, also a Heard County native.

Additionally, Troopers plan to bring Mr. Terrell to the opening ceremonies of a new post opening in Villa Rica soon.


  1. Nice article-God Bless Trooper Terrell. (From Boston Mass)k-9 RET.

  2. Sally Williams says

    I am so happy to see Mr. Jeff honored!!

  3. Good Article, J.R. Motes,Florida Highway Patrol, retired

  4. Michael D Bryant says

    As a former Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper from the 70 era, I would like to give him a special thanks from all of us that have been in LE.
    You never gave up and survived a horrible attack with a mine set “Never Give Up” witch is instilled in New officers today.
    You are the man….
    Stay Safe because your story will always be there to inspire others.


  1. […] to an interview with Stuart by the Heard Citizen in 2017, the first words uttered by his father when he awoke from surgery were […]

  2. […] #12  Georgia State Patrol celebrates oldest surviving trooper […]

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