Thomas Walter Sheffield (Tommy)

Published 7:54 pm Monday, June 20, 2022

Thomas Walter Sheffield (Tommy), who turned 91 on June 1, passed away peacefully at home on Sunday, June 12. 

He attended LSU School of Banking in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and served over 60 years in the banking industry with 37 of those years as bank president in various banks in LaGrange, Georgia.    

He was predeceased by his parents, Robert Nichols and Mattie Baker; his first wife, Margaret Webb; his only child, Thomas Steven (Steve); his brothers, Harvey Lanier, Billy Ernest, John Mack, and Bobby Ray; his sister Juanita Joiner, and several nieces and nephews.  Tommy met Joan Chennault through a mutual friend as a blind date.  Their courtship began while Joan was in graduate school and she and Tommy would spend Sunday afternoons at the college library; he read the Sunday paper or watched NASCAR while she studied.   They were married for 36 years.  He is survived by Joan; his daughter-in-law, Karen Bedsole Sheffield; and, two grandchildren Jordan Avery and Evan Lanier, a very special niece, Pat Spence, and his faithful furry companions, Lacey and Lovie. 

He was born in Brandon, Mississippi, lived in Thomastown with his mom and four siblings, and moved to Gulfport, Mississippi after his father died.  As a young boy, he loved fishing in the Pearl River, and later in the Gulf.  He graduated from Gulfport High School where he played drums in a dance band, and began his banking career after school at Hancock Bank. At 17, he joined the MS National Guard where his unit was activated in early 1951.  He served in Korea as a Sergeant First Class, 7th Division, in the U.S. Army Infantry, 32nd RGT heavy mortar Company.  He received the combat infantry badge, the Bronze Star, and several medals for rifle expertise and good conduct. 

After an honorable discharge, he was employed by the U.S. Treasury where he worked as a bank examiner in the southeast region for three years.  In 1952, he rose through the ranks of Gainesville National Bank from Cashier to Executive Vice President under President Oscar Lilly.  He was active in the Jaycees, named Young Man of the Year in 1964, and Jaycee President in 1965.  In 1971, he left Gainesville to become president and CEO of People’s Bank of LaGrange; he left after the bank was sold to SunTrust and joined Bank of Troup County as President and Chairman of the Board.  He served as President of Community Bank and Trust of West Georgia, until his retirement in 1999 but continued to serve on its Board of Directors until 2018. During his tenure in LaGrange, Tommy served as Chair of the Downtown Development Authority, and was a member of the Industrial Authority.  He was the first Chairman of the Airport Authority where he was instrumental in securing FAA funding for runway improvements, security, and an ILS.  The LaGrange Airport Terminal was named in his honor in 1997. 

Upon retirement he and Joan moved back to Gainesville where he served as a volunteer through Gainesville First United Methodist for Good News at noon and maintained the home while Joan continued to work.   

Tommy touched many lives and never shied away from an opportunity to help others. He loved the Aldersgate Sunday School Class and all the members with which he shared a love of God. He enjoyed golf, vegetable and flower gardening, sports, and was an avid reader.  Above all, Tommy loved their vacation home in Ocklockonee Bay, Florida, where he enjoyed a fulfilling retirement with family and friends while becoming an accomplished fisherman. 

A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, July 23, at Gainesville First United Methodist Church at 2 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his memory to Gainesville FUMC, the Hall County Humane Society, or a charity of your choosing.

Please share online condolences and memories with the family at www.wardsfh.com. Ward’s Funeral Home is honored to serve the family of Thomas Walter “Tommy” Sheffield.

Ward’s Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Gainesville. “A Family Funeral Home.”