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How a small Central Georgia sheriff’s office helped solve one of the state’s biggest cases

The investigation into the assassination of District Attorney Floyd Hoard put a Central Georgia sheriff's office in its crosshairs

WRIGHTSVILLE, Ga. — The year is 1967 -- a district attorney was blown up in his own front yard launching a statewide manhunt began for the killers.

The assassination happened in Jackson County, but it was small town deputies in Central Georgia who played a pivotal role in cracking the case…

Floyd Hoard was a hard-charging district attorney. August 7, 1967, was his last day on Earth.

He was going after organized crime in Jackson County, and was taking on the so-called ‘Dixie Mafia.’

Copies of The Telegraph from the time say he filed so many indictments that the circuit had to hire a second judge.

Mercer University history professor Doug Thompson says the Dixie Mafia was a bunch of bootleggers and bandits not to be taken lightly.

"Anything that was going to take away their revenue streams were real threats to these people," he said.

Newspapers from the time tell the story of what happened next…Hoard was on his way to court.

He turned the ignition in his car and close to a dozen sticks of dynamite exploded, killing him.

With the death of a district attorney, the manhunt was on. Miles away in Johnson County, a familiar face got to work.

“These guys WERE the state of Georgia. Jackson County, Johnson County criminals compared to Al Capone,” said Willis Wombles.

Before he became Wrightsville’s long-time mayor, Wombles was a 26-year-old volunteer deputy with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.

Weeks after Hoard was killed, a house exploded in Wombles’ jurisdiction that revealed an illegal whiskey still in the basement.

When Sheriff Roland Attaway connected its owners to the Hoard murder case, the small-town deputies found themselves in the middle of the hottest case in the state.

“It was tense. It was very tense around here,” said Wombles.

Lloyd Seay and John Blackwell were indicted and placed in separate Wrightsville jails. One by the courthouse, the other across the street.

Then-Governor Lester Maddox wanted the state to take over the case, but Sheriff Attaway had other ideas.

“He told the governor, 'No governor, this is our case in Johnson County. We can handle it and we're going to keep the prisoners,’” Wombles recalled.

Seay and Blackwell -- along with three others -- were ultimately tried and convicted of Hoard's murder

Old newspapers report a 76-year old bootlegger named Cliff Park ordered the hit while Seay, Blackwell, and two others helped carry it out.

With the convictions, the drama -- at least in Wrightsville -- was over.

But 52 years later, Wombles says it's still just as important to remember Hoard's sacrifice, Attaway's perseverance, and a quick response to the unthinkable.

“You don't ever think about that, you don't even dream these things. You don't even suspect these things until they happen,” he said.

Wombles later went on to serve as Wrightsville’s mayor for 26 years. Chief Deputy Tanner, who was Sheriff Attaway’s second-in-command, was later elected sheriff after Attaway stepped down.

According to Wombles, all five of the men convicted of Hoard’s murder were given life sentences. Several were later commuted.


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