Very few people can be considered icons, remembered by only their first name because of their popularity and contributions to society.

In Georgia, “Judy” Poag was one of those icons, said federal Judge Charles Pannell Jr., a lifelong friend of Poag.

Poag, 73, died Saturday morning at his Eton home.

“He was like Elvis – you say his name and immediately everyone knew who you were talking about,” Pannell said Saturday.

Pannell and Poag were both from Eton and their fathers were friends.

His name, said his widow, Elaine, was bestowed on him when he was born by a female cousin who desperately wanted a girl and not a boy to play with.

“All I can tell you is what his momma told me,” Elaine Poag said. “When she (the cousin) was told it was a boy, she said ‘no, it’s a girl named Judy.’”

Born in 1932 to James and Verdie (Hogan) Poag, Charles N. “Judy” Poag never forgot his roots, Elaine Poag said.

“He was a poor sharecropper who never forgot he came from the cotton fields,” Elaine Poag said.

Poag served as Murray County sheriff for 16 years, winning his first election in 1960 when he was just 28 years old. At the time, he was the youngest sheriff ever elected in the state.

Before entering politics, Poag taught and coached at Murray County High School.

In the early 1990s, he won a seat in the Georgia House.

“From the doorman to the speaker to the governor, everyone knew who Judy was,” Pannell said.

To remember Poag is to recall the way he made people laugh.

“He could make the whole crowd, he could make the whole General Assembly laugh,” said state Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton, who served with Poag.

“He just made people smile when they were around him,” said Murray County Commissioner Jim Welch. “He was quite a guy.”

When he was sheriff, Poag often visited the elderly who were homebound, Pannell said.

Murray County Sheriff Howard Ensley worked as a deputy for Poag in the ’70s.

“I learned a lot of things from him,” Ensley said. “He was a good leader and a good sheriff.”

Poag also made sure he remembered his community, his wife said.

“I can’t tell you how many young people got college scholarships because of Judy,” Elaine Poag said. “His life was to help other people.”

That included everyone, rich or poor, Elaine said, and other elected officials.

“When I was in office he took me to the legislature and opened a lot of doors for me,” said former Murray County Commissioner Tyson Haynes.

Poag was well-respected by his colleagues in the legislature, said state Rep. Roger Williams of Dalton, who served with him.

“He came across as an old country boy but he was smart as a whip,” Williams said. “He was a delight to serve with.”

Murray County has remembered Poag and his dedication to the elderly by naming its senior citizen center after him.

“He is a man that is going to be hard for us to replace,” Welch said. “He had the opportunity to touch a lot of people.”

Services for Poag will be Tuesday at 2 p.m. from the chapel of Peeples Funeral Home of Chatsworth. The family will receive friends at the funeral home today and Monday from 6 to 9 p.m.

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