In less than a week, Sampson County has lost two great public servants, individuals who dedicated a large portion of their lives to serving others.
Longtime Register of Deeds Mae H. Troublefield died Sunday at her home; three days earlier, on Thursday, former Sampson County Sheriff James Walter “Jimmy” Norton passed away. Both were in their 90s.
Many under the age of 30 might not recognize their names or remember their time in office, but our younger generations would do well to pay attention to their rich history in this county and the contributions they made, lessons about service that we hope will inspire others to run for office, be active members of civic organizations and eager participants in their churches and communities.
Troublefield, daughter of the late B. Frank and Etha Mae Sharp Hargove and widow of the late Marshall Monk Troublefield, served Sampson County for 40 years — four years in the Clerk of Court’s office, six years in the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office and two years as acting Veteran Service Officer. She was the county’s Register of Deeds for 28 years, first running for the elected office in 1976. She ended her tenure in 2004.
Troublefield was also the first woman on the Hobbton High School Board of Education during a time when each school had its own. She also held a seat on the Board of Directors of Mount Olive College for one year.
A staunch Democrat her entire life, Troublefield served two terms as a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee and was the first woman elected as chairman of the Sampson County Democratic Party.
Although she loved her political party and was loyal to it, as Register of Deeds Troublefield never allowed politics to cross the threshold of her department. There she served the people of Sampson County — all the people, all the time. She was devoted to the job and worked tirelessly to ensure that the needs of those who came to the office were met.
Troublefield was a kind soul with a beautiful smile and a servant’s heart, one of the reasons she so easily won re-election year after year.
Norton, the son of the late James Walter Norton, Sr. and Rochelle Butler Norton, lived in Sampson County for most his life, having moved here with his family at the tender age of 3. After retiring from the United States Navy as a Chief-Warrant Officer in 1960, he was elected sheriff of Sampson County, serving the county from 1966-1969.
He was also former co-owner and president of Sunrise Memorial Gardens, as well as owner-operator of two other stores in Salemburg.
Norton was also a retired US Marshall with the Department of Justice, appointed by President Richard Nixon, a position he took great pride in holding.
Long after his tenure as sheriff and his stint as a marshall, Norton remained a staunch supporter of all things Sampson County. He loved his home and touted it at every turn.
A man with a great sense of humor and a mischievous smile, Norton, like Troublefield, often talked about the need to return to the county some of that which had been given to him through service to others.
“I like helping people,” Norton once said during a visit to the newspaper office, a place he frequented during the 90s. “Public service is important; it’s vital really.”
Troublefield held the same basic belief.
A devoted Catholic, Troublefield believed it was her calling to be a servant to a community she loved with all her heart. “It is a pleasure to serve my county,” she said during an 1998 interview. “I am just so humbled to be able to do it.”
In truth, she and Norton both were humble servants, individuals who believed it was their respective responsibilities to give back.
They both had long lives, and they both gave far more than they ever took. As a county, we should be grateful for their service.