Death of Alabama sheriff recalls memories of slain Wiregrass lawmen

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -- The death of Sheriff "Big John" Williams rekindled haunting memories of Wiregrass sheriffs killed in the line of duty.

It was August 4th, 1957.

A car matching the description of one involved in a Hartford hospital robbery is spotted by Geneva County Sheriff J. C. Woodham.
He pulls it over.

“He stopped that vehicle on Alabama Highway 27 South and he was shot there,” says Geneva County Sheriff Tony Helms.

He died three days later in a local hospital.

Twenty years later, just four days to the date of the previous murder, Geneva County Sheriff Lelon "Red" Sizemore, a man who served beside Woodham, responded to what everyone thought was just another routine call… an intoxicated man disturbing his family.

“He wound up wrestling with sheriff Sizemore and took Sheriff Sizemore's gun away from him. Sheriff Sizemore went to leave went to get in the car and he followed him to the car and shot and killed him right there in the car,” says Helms.

Sizemore's then-chief of police was one of the first on the scene.

For him, that tragic day seems like yesterday.

“Sheriff Sizemore was one of the finest individuals to work for that ever lived. He was an old-time sheriff and I loved him. He was a good guy. He will always be etched in my mind as the best sheriff ever,” says Geneva Mayor Frankie Lindsey.

The shooters in both murders are dead, but the damage they caused is still very much alive.

The community stripped of two people who devoted their lives to protect the people of their county.
“When you take that out of the community it creates a gap it really does. It really hurts the community as a whole,” says Helms.

Their dedication is an example for all officers to model.

“These were men completely by themselves in a community that was a large community but yet they went out completely by themselves and if that's not bravery I don't know what is,” says Helms.

Both Woodham and Sizemore have portions of the highway dedicated to them where they made their last calls.

Woodham's is on Highway 52 between Geneva and Hartford.

Sizemore's is on Highway 85 North between Geneva and Bellwood.
There's also a fallen Coffee County sheriff.

Neil Grantham was killed in 1979 when a former prisoner waited for him outside of the county jail and shot him.

His killer, Billy Joe Magwood, is serving a life sentence.