Retired DeKalb Police Chief Robert “Bobby” T. Burgess Sr, passed away June 6 of natural causes. He was 83.
Burgess was a 45-year veteran of the DeKalb County Police Department, including a 22-year stint as chief of police until his retirement in 2001. The municipal building at 3630 Camp Circle, next to the jail, was renamed the Robert T. Burgess Building in his honor.
Funeral services were held June 10 at Avondale First Baptist Church with the burial at Melwood Cemetery in Stone Mountain. The burial included bagpipe renditions of “Marine’s Hymn” and “Amazing Grace,” a bugle delivery of “Taps,” a 21-gun salute and a five-copter flyover.
Burgess was preceded in death by his first wife, Betty B. Burgess; father, Theron S. Burgess; and mother,Doris C. Burgess. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; three sons, Robert Theron Jr. and Kathy Burgess of Dacula; Joel S. Burgess of Decatur; David B. and Kayren Burgess of Dacula; two stepdaughters, Sandy Pendley and Terry Pendley; a stepson, Robby Lanier; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A DeKalb native, he was “ultra conservative, loved America and never lived more than three miles from the DeKalb County Courthouse,” according to his online obituary.
“Bobby Burgess was a good man whose life was guided by a deep and abiding faith and a commitment to public service,” said interim DeKalb CEO Lee May in a statement. “His incredible 45 years in DeKalb County spanned five decades. He meant a great deal to us all and served as an inspiration with his ongoing efforts to give back and improve his community, about which he cared so deeply.”
DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson said in a statement, “Burgess set the standard he was a true servant-leader and he leaves a legacy of dedicated service not only to the police department but to the citizens of DeKalb County.”
“Bobby Burgess was a hands-on leader who cared deeply about DeKalb County,” stated DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer. “Throughout his years of service he was always full of energy and willing to do whatever was needed to keep DeKalb residents safe. He was a tremendous community servant who will be sorely missed.”
“He was a natural leader who ran a tight ship,” said former county CEO Liane Levetan in a statement. “He always fought to ensure that DeKalb County had the best-equipped police force. My thoughts and prayers remain with his family during this difficult time.”
Comments on the website of A.S. Turner and Sons funeral home remembered a man committed to public service and as an “old school cop’s cop” who never forgot anyone with whom he served.
“The DeKalb Sheriff’s Office family mourns the death of former DeKalb Police Chief Bobby Burgess, and I would like to express my condolences to his family,” said Sheriff Jeff Mann in a statement. “All of us who had the pleasure of working with him also learned from him in some way. I had the opportunity to serve him as legal counsel at one point in his career, and that experience influenced my interest in law enforcement.”
“His serious approach to what was a very serious responsibility as Police Chief was a positive impact on young people who rose up through the ranks in the DeKalb Police Department, and to those of us who knew him in other roles. Since his passing, the recollections have continued to be shared among colleagues who worked under his watch. We all have great stories to tell about what he meant to us individually. It is clear that Chief Burgess’s legacy in law enforcement and as his position as a valued leader in our community have been firmly established in DeKalb County’s history.”
This article originally appeared in The Champion Newspaper.