Paulding County’s former, longtime sheriff died Sunday. Bruce Harris was 72.
A Paulding native, Harris died surrounded by his family at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, according to the Paulding Sheriff’s Office. He is the longest-serving sheriff in the department’s history.
Harris graduated from West Georgia College in 1969 with a degree in education and returned to Paulding to teach, the Sheriff’s Office said Monday. He returned for a degree in criminal justice when it was offered at the college.
In 1975, Harris joined the Georgia State Patrol, where he served as a trooper until he was elected sheriff in 1992, the Sheriff’s Office said. He took office on Jan. 1, 1993, and held the position for 15 years before retiring in 2008.
“Sheriff Harris was an innovator in the field of law enforcement and helped bring the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office into the 21st century with a number of technological and procedural advances,” the department posted late Sunday on Facebook. “Sheriff Harris was a true Paulding Countian and loved every aspect of it. He will be sorely missed by so many.”
Under his leadership, several units were created in the Paulding Sheriff’s Office, including the SWAT team, the K-9 unit, the Crimes Against Children unit and the Office of Professional Standards.
Harris also served on boards for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and the Georgia Board of Public Safety.
In 2002, Harris made headlines when he announced he was leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP.
"You listen to your voters," told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December 2002. "Your voters tell you what to do."
Two years later, Harris was elected to his fourth term.
“He would show up on a scene regardless of whether it was on a holiday or even in the middle of the night,” the Sheriff’s Office said Monday. “He was a sheriff for the people and was an excellent leader.”
Among the most high-profile cases his department investigated during his tenure was the July 2006 murder of Jennifer Ewing on the Silver Comet Trail.
Ewing was a 54-year-old Sandy Springs cyclist and mother of three. Days later, Harris announced that Michael William Ledford had been charged. Ledford was later convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
A graveside service is planned for Wednesday at 3 p.m .at Dallas Memory Gardens. Clark Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
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