Jim Sikes, Charlton County's Legendary Sheriff

By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian

The big black limousine sped through Folkston headed north on the Dixie Highway. Charlton County’s newly hired motorcycle policeman, Jim Sikes, gave chase.

Sikes, who locals said “was not scared of the devil himself,” by instinct knew that the car was loaded with illegal whiskey being hauled north during an era of rum running that was choking a nation struggling to cope with this illegal practice. Sikes had been hired to stop the illegal liquor traffic through Charlton County.

The limousine failed to stop when Sikes blew the siren on his motorcycle and only accelerated once it got beyond Homeland on its northbound route with Sikes in close pursuit.

Near Uptonville, a small community on the Dixie Highway, Sikes pulled his motorcycle alongside the limousine and motioned to the driver to pull over. There was another person in the front seat beside the driver.

The liquor-loaded car swerved onto the shoulder of the highway just ahead of Sikes. Out of the car the two occupants leaped and ducked in front with drawn pistols. They weren’t going to let a “small town cop” spoil their mission.

Sikes stopped his motorcycle behind the limousine and ducked behind it, drawing his own pistol. The two outlaws rose up from in front of their parked car and began firing at Sikes. Sikes, an expert marksman, returned their fire. Both men from the limousine slumped to the ground, dead. Their whiskey-laden car was in front of them with its motor still running. Sikes was not hit by their gunfire.

Word soon spread in Folkston of Sikes’ courage and determination to halt whiskey traffic through Charlton County. The episode vaulted Sikes into prominence when the next sheriff’s election rolled around in 1931.

The Emanuel County native was elected easily and in January 1932 he assumed the office of Sheriff, a position he held until his death on October 4, 1963, five days before what would have been his 64th birthday.

Sikes, for thirty years as sheriff, became unanimously popular with the voters. He had the unique ability to make friends of his political enemies before Election Day. Never had Charlton County had a more popular office holder, and never had it produced such a consummate political figure.

Charlton  County Archives