Some knew him as a police chief, others as a public safety director. In both capacity’s, Stone Mountain’s Robert “Bobby” Burgess, Sr. was a well-respected public servant who will always be remembered for his 45 years of serving DeKalb County. He died June 6 of natural causes. He was 83.
Said DeKalb’s Interim CEO Lee May in a statement: “Bobby Burgess was a good man whose life was guided by a deep and abiding faith and a commitment to public service. His incredible 45 years in DeKalb County spanned five decade. He will be greatly missed by all of us.”
Former CEO Vernon Jones thanked Bobby Burgess for his service, saying Burgess was a mentor.
“Another one of Georgia’s tallest pines has fallen. As the Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County, I had the honor to serve with Bobby Burgess during his final years as a public servant. He was my police chief, my public safety director, and a mentor,” said Jones. “He (Bobby) was a policeman’s policeman and a police chief’s chief. Bobby Burgess was a great American and I thanked him for his service by having the DeKalb County Police Headquarters named the Bobby Burgess building. My prayers are with his family.”
Mr. Burgess, Sr., was born on March 22, 1931 to Theron and Doris (Coile) Burgess. He graduated from the Woodrow Wilson Law School and went on to work for the DeKalb County Police Department in 1957 as a patrolman. He retired in 2001 as Chief after 45 years of service, earning the honor of being the longest-serving Police Chief in DeKalb County history.
DeKalb County Commissioners wrapped up its June 10 board meeting so they could attend the funeral at Avondale First Baptist Church in Avondale Estates. Dr. J. Truett Gannon officiated the service. A burial followed at Melwood Cemetery in Stone Mountain.
“We want to offer our special condolences to Chief Bobby Burgess and his family. The Board of Commissioners extends our deepest sympathy to a great man, who was a great public servant,” said Board of Commissioners Presiding Officer Larry Johnson. “Bobby Burgess was a hands-on leader who cared deeply about DeKalb County. He was a tremendous community servant who will be sorely missed.”
Mr. Burgess was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Benevolent Association, and was a Mason.
“Grief can be so hard, but our special memories help us cope. We will be remembering this great man and his family, today and always,” said DeKalb County Judge Gregory A. Adams.
“Chief Burgess was a great man. I loved every moment I was with DKPD. I learned a great deal watching and listening to him. He was a real cop’s cop. He will be missed. My prayers to his family,” said Hugh Howard, retired DeKalb County Police Officer.
Family members say Burgess was “ultra conservative,” loved America and DeKalb County and never lived more than three miles from the DeKalb County Court House.
Robert “Bobby” Burgess, Jr. said his father had “an extreme love for DeKalb County” and its history. The younger Burgess said his father could tell their family’s entire history since they came to DeKalb in the early 1800s and knew almost every detail of the last 80 years of DeKalb.
Burgess was preceded in death by his first wife, Betty B. Burgess; father, Theron S. Burgess; mother, Doris C. Burgess.
Bobby Burgess, Sr. is survived by his wife, Shirley Burgess; three sons, Bobby Burgess, Jr. of Dacula, David Burgess of Dacula and Joel Burgess of Decatur; three stepchildren; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.