WHAT’S IN A NAME? Sam Walker Drive

Published 4:00 pm Saturday, February 25, 2023

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Around Troup County, the name Sam Walker can strike fear in the hearts of those who tend to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Even though his name sounds like it, Sam Walker (1927-2004) was not a rugged lawman but rather an airline executive. The namesake of the road leading to the Troup County Jail was a retired Eastern Airlines executive. 

Walker earned his name on the road for leading the effort to build a new county jail, which was paid for using funds from the very first Troup County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

When the jail was opened in 1995, the road leading to it was named for Walker. 

Prior to his passing in 2004, Walker dedicated much of his time to working with governmental, civic and charitable organizations, said Lewis Powell, IV of the Troup County Archives.

The Troup County Sheriff’s Office shares the facility on Sam Walker Dr. and oversees the jail.

Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff, who is currently in his third term, said a lot has changed since the jail was first opened and even more from when he started in law enforcement in 1985.

When Woodruff started, the county ran the nearby Troup County Correctional Institution, or the “work camp” as many called it. The facility was closed in 2017 by the Troup County Board of Commissioners. For better or worse, state inmates were sent to other state prisons and local inmates were then transferred to the jail.

The former work camp is now referred to as the jail annex and used for overflow or emergencies like separating inmates during COVlD.

Woodruff said that most people don’t understand that jails and prisons are different. 

“Jail is where you go to stay until you can go to court,” Woodruff said. “Jail is just to house the people until they eventually go to court and get found guilty or not guilty.”

Most of the inmates at the Troup County Jail are either awaiting trial or serving time for a misdemeanor.

“If you’re doing misdemeanor time, which is 12 months or less, I can let you do it here or either at work release,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff said work release is a prime example of how he tries to prepare people for reentry into society after incarceration.

“If you’ve got a job and make the qualifications, you can go up there and not lose your job. Under the old system, if you had a job and you got 12 months, your job is not going to wait on you,” Woodruff said. “We started work release so employees can keep their job and the employer can keep a good employee.”

The program also allows inmates to send money home to their families to pay bills. Otherwise, they’re sitting in not contributing to anything, Woodruff said.

“That’s really who suffers when you’re in jail,” he said.

Woodruff said one of the biggest things he has learned since becoming sheriff is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

“When you have a problem, pick up the phone and call another sheriff because he’s probably going through the same thing you have, and he’s got an answer for you,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff said the other thing he has learned is to surround himself with people that you trust with his life.

“They’re probably smarter than you in a lot of areas. It doesn’t intimidate you, so get out of the way, and let them do their job. That is why we have been I think successful here at the sheriff’s office,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff’s current term ends in 2024, but he said he plans to run again at least one more time.

“I would like to run another term and finish some work that we’ve started or carry on other work. Maybe come up with some new ideas on ways to help people in jail to be ready to reenter society and ways to better serve our citizens.” Woodruff said.