Columbia County's longest-serving elected official was laid to rest Saturday.
Thomas "Tommy" L. King Sr., 69, of Martinez, died at his home surrounded by family and friends at about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday.
King, who battled congestive heart failure and chronic pulmonary disease, was hospitalized about three weeks ago and returned home recently under hospice care, said his wife, Bonnie.
King's graveside services were held at Westover Memorial Park.
King served as Columbia County's coroner since December 1972, said Probate Judge Pat Hardaway. According to state law, Hardaway must appoint an interim coroner to fill the two unexpired years of King's term.
"We worked together for a long time," Hardaway said. "He has helped lots and lots and lots of people in this county, families that have needs and no money."
King's colleagues said that they were saddened by his death and that he was a good man.
"He was 10 years in age ahead of me, but he was kind of like a daddy to me," Deputy Coroner Vernon Collins said. "He taught me everything I know."
King had owned and operated Thomas L. King Funeral Home on Davis Road since September 1970.
"He was just very well-loved by his family and gave so much to this county and this community," Bonnie King said. "And he loved it."
King, for whom the county's morgue was named in 2002, was a longtime member of the Georgia Coroners Association, for which he served on the Training Council.
"He's been a staple in the Georgia Coroners Association and a trainer and a leader for that county," said Grover Tuten, Richmond County's coroner.
King is survived by his wife; a son, Thomas L. King Jr., of Evans; a stepson, Allan Olive, of Martinez; a stepdaughter, Tammy Bushee, of Martinez; and seven grandchildren.
King graduated with a degree in mortuary science from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.
He was a longtime member of the National Hills Lions Club and Martinez Evans Little League, and was named the 2006 Merchant of the Year by the Merchants Association of Columbia County.
Collins said he remembers King as a man who loved people and showed it by helping and serving them.
"He has helped a lot of families over the years, monetarily and with funerals," Collins said. "He was just a good person. I've never seen him show any anger.
"If you went to the funeral home and stayed for one hour or eight hours, when you'd get ready to go, he'd ask, 'What's the rush?' because he loved people and loved people to come down and visit."
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