First Responders 08

J Tyson Stephens

July 9, 1952 ~ September 2, 2021 (age 69)


Durden-Hudson Funeral Directors announces the death of Ret. Sheriff J. Tyson Stephens, age 69 of Athens, GA formerly of Swainsboro, GA on Thursday, September 2, 2021, at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, Athens, GA.

Funeral services will be private and the family appreciates your honoring their wishes at this time.

There will be a walk-thru visitation, open to the public on Saturday, September 4, 2021, beginning at 2:00 PM until 6:00 PM.  Due to COVID safety, the family will not be present.

Born in 1952, J. Tyson Stephens grew up in Emanuel County, where he graduated from Swainsboro High School with Honors. He served as state president of Georgia FFA in 1969. Tyson attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and went on to graduate Cum Laude from the University of Georgia in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. He served six years in the Georgia National Guard.  Tyson married Susan Fagler in 1973, and they made their home in Emanuel County, where they raised three children, Jill, Josh and Jessica.

Elected as County Commissioner in 1982, he was subsequently elected Sheriff of Emanuel County in 1984 and served for 36 years. Sheriff Stephens was a member of the Georgia County Officers Association, the Georgia and National Sheriffs’ Associations, and the American Correctional Association. He was a graduate of Leadership Georgia and served on the Board of Directors for both the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Homes State Board and the Board of Trustees of Herrington Homestead. He was Chairman of the Control Group for the East Central Georgia Drug Task Force.  He was appointed by Governor Roy Barnes to serve on the Georgia POST Council, where he served as Chairman.  He was also appointed to the Georgia Board of Corrections. In 2000, Sheriff Stephens was the recipient of the prestigious honor of “Georgia Sheriff of the Year.”

To be a great sheriff, one must have the ability to lead.  Anyone who knew Sheriff Stephens knew he was a great leader.  He could calm a situation and bring others together.  To be both a great man and sheriff, one must also have a desire to serve. Without a doubt, Tyson had the heart of a servant.  He believed in helping his friends and neighbors. He believed in second chances and new beginnings.  Tyson was the underdogs’ biggest cheerleader. He sought out those who were lost and offered whatever he could. For many years, Tyson was a Friend of Bill W., and he cherished the relationships that were forged. Serving and loving others made him happy.

 Tyson’s greatest joy was his family.  He and Susan were married for 47 years and raised three wonderful children. He was especially proud of his eight grandchildren. Over the past 16 years, since the birth of his first grandchild, Tyson and Susan have spent their free time focused on them.  Countless Saturday morning trips to the jail for cheese toast, hundreds of laps around the yard on the golf cart, and thousands of miles on the road to their many activities. This was all precious time spent with his proudest achievements. His love for his family was immeasurable. Tyson was preceded in death by his parents, Hollis and Christine Horton Stephens; sisters and brothers-in-law, Betty and Delmas Johnson, Patsy and Bobby Kent, and Donnell and Clyde Stroud; and father-in-law, Jimmy Kelly.

Survivors include:

His Wife: Susan Fagler Stephens of Athens, GA

Children: Jill Stephens Walton (Geoffrey) of Athens, GA, Josh Stephens (Merri) of Thomson, GA and Jessica Stephens Harrill (Jack) of LaGrange, GA

Grandchildren:Callie Walton, Reese Walton, Charlie Walton, Sam Stephens, Bo Stephens, Carter Harrill, Hudson Harrill and Bailor Harrill.

Mother-In-Law: Mae H. Kelly of Swainsboro, GA

Numerous nieces, nephews and extended family.

In lieu of flowers, the family has created the J. Tyson Stephens Rural Ag Scholars Fund at the University of Georgia to support students from rural areas studying agriculture.  Online donations may be made to .  Donations may be mailed to the UGA Foundation, University of Georgia, Development and Alumni Relations, One Press Place, Athens, GA  30602.

Condolences may be submitted online at

Durden-Hudson Funeral Directors is in charge of arrangements for Ret. Sheriff J. Tyson Stephens of Athens, GA

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of J Tyson Stephens, please visit our floral store.

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September 4, 2021

2:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Durden - Hudson Funeral Directors (Swainsboro, Peebles - Curry Memorial Chapel)


J. Tyson Stephens Rural Ag Scholars Fund
Donations may be mailed to the UGA Foundation, University of Georgia, Development and Alumni Relations, One Press Place, Athens GA 30602

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