The county on Saturday celebrated the life of the late Noah Lockley, Jr. in a ceremony at the Matchbox gym that recalled the kindness and good cheer the longtime county commissioner displayed over the course of his career.
And as a politician who served his community for nearly two decades, it is now a matter of time before politics surfaces in the wake of his death.
At 11 a.m, Lockley’s extended family filed into the gym, their entrance accompanied by songs from the city-wide choir, and past the open casket just beneath the basketball hoop where the county commissioner would invariably be among the the many fans from the neighborhood to cheer on the Apalachicola High School Sharks.
Pastor David Walker delivered the invocation, followed by readings from two of Lockley’s friends, Apostle Granville Croom, Jr., and Elder O.H. Walker, both men older than Lockley, who passed away at age 72 on Nov. 14.
The choir’s exquisite voices sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” followed by remarks from Commissioner Cheryl Sanders, who served for many years alongside Lockley. Sanders spoke lovingly of her last visits with Lockley, who had been greeted by a steady stream of friends over the past five months. Sanders closed her remarks by singing a hymn to her friend.
Commission Chairman Ricky Jones offered his remarks, recalling his friend’s outspoken and humorous sides. Apalachicola Mayor Brenda Ash spoke as well, in tribute to the nearly five complete terms Lockley served representing District 3.
In perhaps the most moving moments of the service, O’Sheila Harris sang a hymn to her friend, and cousin Charlene Lockley offered one as well.
Lockley’s son and daughter, Jeffrey and LaTrina, each offered personal reflections, as did his sister Penny and brother J. P. and his granddaughters Oneika and Trianna.
Stella Sanders-Bryant read the many resolutions in Lockley’s honor issued by governments and churches.
A eulogy by the Rev. James Williams, senior pastor of Apalachicola’s Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, concluded the service as did other selections by the choir.
Members of Apalachicola Lodge #627, wearing their Masonic aprons, served as active pallbearers, while Adrian, Patrick and Zachary Jones were honorary pallbearers.
A repast was conducted at the Fort Coombs Armory.
At least two candidates have submitted applications to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office for consideration to be appointed to serve the remainder of Lockley’s term which expires next year. It is unclear whether Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, will appoint a replacement ahead of the Aug. 24 primary.
Elinor Mount-Simmons, 66, a retired Franklin County schoolteacher who now works as administrator of ED Corps, said she has filed the necessary paperwork with the governor’s office, but conceded that as a Democrat, “the likelihood of being appointed is slim to none.”
Emerging among the Republican ranks is Anthony Croom, Jr., 36, a former law enforcement officer who now works as district safety and security administrator for the Franklin County Schools. He confirmed that he too has submitted his name for consideration.
Mount-Simmons has been an announced candidate for the commission seat since June 2021, and is expected to file the formal elections office paperwork by mid-January.
She said she spoke with Lockley soon after he won in 2020, when he informed her he did not plan to see reelection.
Mount-Simmons said that Croom, aware she planned to run, visited her earlier this month to share that he was putting his name out for consideration.
“I respect him for wanting to do that,” she said. “He’s a neighbor also. I appreciate the integrity of a man who does that.”