Longtime police officer and public servant Jimmy Leebo Duke is being celebrated and remembered for his impact on the area.
Duke -- who worked for nearly eight years with the Elba Police Department and served as New Brockton’s Chief of Police -- passed away on June 9 at a Dothan hospital following an extended illness.
A police escort comprised of officers and first responders from various departments in Coffee County and beyond transported Duke’s body from Dothan to his hometown of Greenville.
Many gathered at Elba Police Department to pay respects on Monday morning as the escort passed.
Duke’s impact stretched far, as he volunteered in various capacities and was always willing to help those in need.
He was appointed New Brockton Police Chief in April 2018 after serving for many years as a part-time officer for the New Brockton Police Department. He served as chief while continuing his duties as an officer with the EPD.
In May 2019, Dale Grimes was named acting police chief with New Brockton as Duke was on extended medical leave.
Grimes was to serve as chief until Duke was able to return to the role.
New Brockton Mayor Kathy Holley said Duke was a one-of-a-kind person with a heart for people.
“On my worst day, he would make it enjoyable,” Holley said. “He would always take care of people. He was so caring. There’s no telling how many people in this town he’s bought food for and taken care of. He was an old-time police officer who believed in the Andy Griffith way of policing.”
Holley recalled a story of a “vagrant” in an apartment complex in town.
“When Duke went out there, the person was distrustful and they thought they were going to be arrested,” Holley said. “Duke told them, ‘I’m not here to arrest you unless I have to. I’m here to help you.’ That’s just how he was.”
New Brockton City Clerk Debbie Andrews said Duke had a natural way of making people laugh and making their day better.
“He could take one of the worst situations you could possibly work and make it a comedy,” Andrews said. “He was a lot of fun to work with, and he will be missed.”
In a statement released Monday morning, Elba Mayor Mickey Murdock extended condolences to Duke’s family. Duke joined the EPD in Sept. 2011 and served the department until his death.
“His presence will be missed in our City, especially at the Elba Police Department,” Murdock said.
The Elba Fire Department on Sunday released a statement regarding Duke’s death, in which the department called Duke a “shining example of a public servant.”
“(He was) always willing to help in any way possible, on duty or off, and was an asset to our department in a number of ways,” according to the statement. “We are all better people for having known him and having had the opportunity to serve beside him.”
Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton on Monday asked for the public’s understanding in the coming days as officers and first responders mourn.
“Officer J.L. Duke ended his time of watch yesterday as he passed away from a lengthy illness,” Sutton said. “His funeral will be in Greenville, and I’m asking everybody to be mindful of that as we have lost a law enforcement officer.”