Retired Colquitt County Correctional Institution Warden Leland Dampier died Thursday from complications related to a Feb. 16 auto accident.
Dampier, 89, served as warden at Colquitt County Correctional Institution from 1972 to 2004, a position he held for 32 years. Dampier also had served on Colquitt County School Board and as mayor of Berlin.
Dampier was remembered by acquaintances as a hard worker who was committed to giving back to the community. In addition to his county job and elected offices, Dampier was a a member of the Shriners, an organization best known for the no-cost medical care provided at the 22 hospitals it administers in the United States.
Marion Hay, a former Colquitt County administrator, was Dampier’s boss but said the two had maintained a friendship and frequently had dinner together prior the Feb. 16 accident.
“I hate to say I love somebody — but as a person I love him like a brother,” Hay said. “He was one of the most loyal and committed people I’ve ever worked with. He loved this county and he loves his family and he loved his grandchildren. He meant a lot to Colquitt County, I know that.”
Hay said that when he accepted the job as administrator here in 1995 while city manager in Perry, Ga., a friend who was a Georgia Department of Corrections employee told him that Dampier was the best warden in the state.
“I found that to be true when I got here,” Hay said. “When it came to being a warden he was a professional and he was a true gentleman. The whole time I was here I never had a minute’s worth of trouble with him.”
During his tenure, former inmates referred to the prison as “Damp’s Camp,” a nickname that was known statewide, Hay said.
Dampier was injured when the F-150 pickup truck he was driving collided with a Dodge Ram pickup truck at the intersection of Veterans Parkway and Park Avenue. Dampier was hospitalized due to serious internal injuries he suffered and had started rehabilitation this week.
Dampier was cited for failure to yield in the accident. The driver and occupants of the other vehicle were treated and released from the hospital the same day.
Hay said he had been optimistic about Dampier’s recovery and that he seemed to be doing well.
“I was out there with him every other day,” he said. “He was doing so good. I thought he was going to be home in a week.
“I’m going to miss that (dinners). I never knew anybody that didn’t like him.”
Colquitt County Coroner Verlyn Brock said that the severity of Dampier’s injuries proved too much for him to overcome.
“It was just more than his system could withstand at his age, bless his heart,” Brock said. “He fought a long battle after the accident, but he just wasn’t able to get through it.”
Dampier’s cause of death will be listed as accidental due to injuries suffered in the accident, he said. The state did not require an autopsy in the case and the family did not request one.
Warden Billy Howell, who replaced Dampier seven years ago, said that Dampier was respected by his peers across the state. Howell worked in the prison for a year and a half beginning in 1975 before transferring to the Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office.
“He was my first boss man,” Howell said. “I thought he was a fine man. He’s one of the best wardens I’ve ever seen.
“He will certainly be missed in this community. Leland did a lot of good in this community.”