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February 7, 1957 ~ July 27, 2023 (age 66) 66 Years Old
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Hinesville - J. Thomas “Tom” Durden, 66, passed away Thursday, July 27, 2023. A resident of Liberty County, he is remembered as the former Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney serving Liberty, Long, Bryan, Evans, McIntosh, and Tattnall counties. Tom was born in Swainsboro, GA, and raised in Twin City, GA. He graduated high school from Emanuel County Institute in 1975 where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He never lost his passion for sports and was an avid UGA Bulldogs and Atlanta Braves fan. Tom also participated in theater. Some might say that experience helped him to develop his flair for the dramatic when he later tried cases in the courtroom. His ability to captivate a courtroom and remain genuine earned him undeniable respect which was rewarded with being elected to 6 consecutive terms. Tom attended Presbyterian College where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity, the Judicial Council, and Blue Key. He graduated in 1979 with a BS degree in political studies and economics. He continued his education and graduated from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was admitted to the GA bar in 1982. Tom initially joined his admired mentor John E. James at the Harris and James Law Firm in Macon before making his way to the Atlantic Judicial Circuit. He was sworn in as assistant DA under Dupont K. Cheney in 1984 and promoted to chief assistant later that same year. He was elected as DA in 1998 serving until his retirement in 2022. Tom prosecuted hundreds of criminal cases in the Atlantic Circuit. Among his most noteworthy were the 1998 infamous “Tomato Patch Murder” in Long County later featured on A+E Network’s series American Justice in 2002. He also led the conviction of four Fort Stewart soldiers who were members of the FEAR militia after they murdered two teens in Long County in an effort to suppress knowledge of the terrorist group. Most recently, Tom will be remembered for playing a pivotal role in charges being brought in the murder case of Ahmaud Arbery. The case gained national attention with the public outcry for justice. Tom was the catalyst for charges being brought against the three men who were later convicted. Tom had a lifelong passion for music, building an extensive collection of various instruments. He was proficient in playing them but is most remembered specifically for his singing voice. It was common for Tom to perform a song whether it was at a church, a wedding, or a funeral. He passed his playing ability to his eldest son John, as well as his desire to enter law enforcement. His youngest son Gerry is humble like his father and has the same compassion and kind heart. He and his wife Becky shared a life of love that most can’t capture in a lifetime. Not often was one without the other and that companionship was at the heart of their marriage. They spent time together attending concerts and sporting events. Tom also loved the water, and they often spent time lounging at the pool or taking trips to the beach. But their time was most importantly spent with family. No other activities overshadowed Tom’s favorite pastime of being “Papa.” Tom is preceded in death by his parents John Thomas Durden, Sr. and Annie Ruth Hawkins Durden.
Survivors are his wife, Becky Durden of Hinesville, GA; sons John Thomas Durden III and Gerald (Gerry) Durden both of Statesboro, GA; sister Carrilyn Corbin (Bob) of Cumming, GA, brother Brad Durden (Brenda) of Asheville, NC; Stepdaughters Brooke Wells Prindle (Chad) and Tori Carter both of Hinesville, GA; grandsons Gauge Williamson, Carter Thomas Prindle, and Hudson Prindle; a niece, nephew, Melanie Morrison and several cousins.
Funeral services will be held Thursday, August 3rd at 4 PM at First Baptist Church Hinesville. Visitation will begin at the church 2 hours prior to the service.
Active pallbearers will be Greg Johnson, Alan Atkinson, Hugh Copeland, Joel Osteen, Mark Hendrix, and Keith Moran.
Honorary pallbearers are present and former Superior Court Judges of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, and law enforcement personnel in attendance.
Family and friends may sign the online register at www.howardfuneralga.com.
Arrangements are under the direction of Howard Funeral Home of Ludowici.