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Longtime clerks says goodbye to courthouse

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Staff Writer

It was one of the hardest things Lester Collins ever had to do.

With tears in his eyes, the former Fulton County Clerk handed the courthouse keys over to Gene Maguffee after serving for 20 years.

Now, 32 years later, Maguffee will hand his keys over to newly elected Clerk Vickie Bishop. And Maguffee hopes he will be able to hold back the tears.

"It'll be emotional, but I don't think I'll cry," said Maguffee, the longest tenured clerk in Fulton County history.

Maguffee, 62, said he decided to retire this year because his health is good and he wants to spend more time with his family.

A farewell party was held in Maguffee's honor Dec. 10 at the courthouse.

"I can't imagine this place without him here," a tearful Bishop said. "I've worked with him for over 27 years."

Spending over 30 years as clerk was the last thing Maguffee said he expected to do when he graduated from Salem High School in 1960.

Shortly after graduation, Maguffee worked on a road crew as a surveyor. Then in 1964 he joined the Army and went to Vietnam.

"I served in Cuchi, a town 20 miles north of Saigon. We saw live action on several occasions," Maguffee said. "The thing I'm most proud of is our battalion fired over 100,000 rounds without a single friendly fire casualty."

After he returned from Vietnam, Maguffee worked several odd jobs, which included selling insurance and driving a fertilizer truck.

Then in 1971 he made a decision that would shape his professional life.

That year Maguffee began working as the Fulton County deputy clerk. A year later Collins announced his retirement and Maguffee decided to run for Collins' vacated seat.

"Running for political office was the furthest thing from my mind growing up," Maguffee said.

He won that election and remained relatively unchallenged for the seat over the next three decades.

In 1986 Mike Martin opposed Maguffee for the office, but the incumbent easily won re-election.

Maguffee said his years at the courthouse have been wonderful.

As clerk, Maguffee said he has presided over several exciting elections. He said the most exciting election was in 1980 when then-Gov. Bill Clinton lost.

"I'll never forget the night he lost. We were in the back counting votes, when the news came in. We were all in shock," Maguffee said.

Maguffee said he has spoken with President Clinton several times and in 1962 he attended a ceremony at which President John F. Kennedy spoke.

"They were both great speakers, but I think Clinton was better. I didn't agree with a lot of the stuff he did, but I think he was a good president," Maguffee said.

He said retirement will be a busy time for him. Maguffee and his wife, Sharon, are raising their 6-year-old grandson, D.J.

"Sharon will probably go crazy with me around all the time," he said.

The Maguffees have two daughters, 26-year-old Dana and 16-year-old Whitney, and a granddaughter, 4-year-old Erica.

As much as Maguffee will enjoy spending time with his family, he said he will miss his courthouse family.

"I've enjoyed working with every single person at the courthouse. All the judges and court reporters have been real nice," Maguffee said. "Vickie has been real good. She and Kathleen (Walling) are very capable people."

Besides raising his grandson, Maguffee will remain active in the local community. He said he will continue to serve as the Fulton County Democratic Committee chairman and as the VFW quartermaster.

And occasionally he will make his way back to the courthouse to see if Bishop needs help.

"I told her if she had any problems, I'd be around to help her. I'm sure they'll let me come in here every now and then," Maguffee said with a smile.



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