A familiar face around the grounds of the Sampson County Detention Center for nearly 20 years, Cpl. Jerome Herring has officially retired, a blow for the Sheriff’s Office and the landscape Herring ensured stayed well-maintained.
Herring’s retirement was effective Aug. 31 and he was honored at Tuesday night’s Sampson County Board of Commissioners meeting. Herring could often be seen on the grounds around Fontana Street ever since the new jail opened in May 2007, leading the trustees in making sure floors were waxed, trash was dumped, shrubs were pruned and grass was cut, even on weekends when there were issues that needed to be tended to at the facility.
“He’s been our right hand man and deserves an awful lot of credit and praise for what he’s been able to accomplish at the jail,” Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said.
During a brief ceremony Tuesday, Board chairman Billy Lockamy presented a plaque to Herring in recognition of his years of service. Herring served the Detention Center from July 1, 1996 to Aug. 31, 2015, dating back to when the county jail was located in downtown Clinton.
A modest man of few words, it was evident Herring could not wait to accept the plaque, thank everybody and remove himself promptly from the limelight. However, following Lockamy’s presentation, Thornton quickly shot up as Herring walked off, chomping at the bit to get the attention off of him. The sheriff said he simply could not let the moment pass without acknowledging how much Herring has meant to the Detention Center over the years.
“If any of you have been to that facility, I dare say you’ve ever seen the grass much over 2 inches high or the shrubs out of place,” the sheriff remarked. “He’s kept everything immaculate, not only on the outside but on the inside as well.”
The decorum and class he displayed in doing his job was something that rubbed off on a group of men who, although they made their mistakes, were taught about work ethic and respect by working for Herring.
“One thing that Jerome demanded of those inmates when they were out and about doing their tasks is that they respect all of us,” Thornton noted. “It was always ‘sir’ to me every single time. It was almost as if they were at attention every time I would walk by.”
Inmates over the years have had the utmost respect for Herring, and “thoroughly enjoyed” working with him, the sheriff said.
“They never complained did they Jerome?” the sheriff asked.
“No, they didn’t,” he answered.
While there sometimes were incidents that forced Herring to come in on the weekends, Thornton said he did not have to call Herring very much. The few times he would, the sheriff recalled, the corporal seldom recognized the sound of Thornton’s voice immediately, but would always come to the realization moments later.
“This is Sheriff Jimmy Thornton, isn’t it?” Herring would ask as it dawned on him.
“Yes it is, Jerome,” the sheriff recalled saying on occasion, with a laugh.
“That’s true,” Herring conceded.
Capt. Fredrick Hayes, assistant administrator of the Detention Center, echoed Thornton’s praise for the man. He worked closely with Herring over the years.
“Mr. Herring could not be more valuable to us,” Hayes said. “He’s been an asset to our department in every aspect. He truly has. He’s going to be missed. He’s not replaceable. We’ve got somebody to work in his slot but nobody knows the value that he has had to our department — that dedication is really going to be missed.”
Herring’s retirement announcement not only left a personnel void that needed to be filled, it similarly meant a friendly face and hard worker was being lost.
“When he told us he was going to retire we felt like crying,” said Hayes. “We appreciate all his service.”
“We’re going to truly miss him,” Thornton added. “He’s just an excellent employee. Without question, he’s provided a valuable service to the county, in particularly us, and I truly appreciate that.”
Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.