Family, GSP troopers and friends gathered at Atco Baptist Church for the reading of a proclamation dedicating the stretch of State Route 20 from Interstate 75 to the Cherokee County line in Looney’s memory.
“We’re here today to honor a fallen brother. On May 25, 1962, Fred Looney became only the eighth Georgia State trooper to die in the line of duty in the patrol’s, at that time, 25-year existence,” said Troop A Commander Capt. Joe Hamby.
Looney, a 1951 Cass High School graduate and Korean War veteran, graduated from the 22nd trooper school in December 1961. He died just five months later from injuries sustained in an automobile crash on State Route 306 near Cumming after a vehicle pursuit.
The 6-foot-5 Looney was remembered by his daughter Mary Ann James as a practical joker who loved to cook and enjoyed the outdoors.
James, who was 3 when her father lost his life, called Tuesday’s ceremony, which included the sign unveiling and a wreath-laying at Oak Hill Cemetery, the service she never got to attend.
“When I was little ..., I didn’t get to go to the funeral. The family doctor said, ‘She’s 3, almost 4. She’s too young for it.’ So, to me, this is the service I never got to attend,” she said at the unveiling of the sign designating the roadway as the Trooper Frederick Herman Looney Memorial Highway. “It meant a lot to me to go to the funeral, but I wasn’t allowed. So, this is honoring him.”
James said her mother is thankful for the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s efforts to recognize fallen GSP troopers and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents.
“She’s very appreciative. It just means a lot to her that still after all these years they’d come together and remember him and her and honor [him],” she said, adding her fondest recollections stem from his return from duty. “My strongest memories of him is carnations. He would always come home from work — I’d see the patrol car pull up and ... he’d have one carnation for me.”
Looney is one of 27 service members who will be recognized through road dedications.
Georgia Department of Public Safety Deputy Commissioner Lt. Col. Russell Powell said the process for each trooper takes about a year and all 27 should be complete by fall 2014.
“Our goal is to honor our fallen members with something that is a lasting memorial. Through these efforts, motorists who pass these signs will know from now on that a trooper or GBI agent gave their life in the service of others,” Powell said. “... The initial step in the process is to reach out to the family to determine where the family wants the memorial. Do you want it in your hometown where people knew the service member? Or do you want it at the site of his death? We talked to the family about what was most important to them. Almost unanimously they want it in their hometown.”
From there, the department contacts the Georgia Department of Transportation to determine if the stretch of roadway is available. Once approved, the local representative in the state Legislature must introduce a bill to dedicate the segment of highway, which also must be approved through the legislative process.
“We feel it’s a very fitting tribute. We are incredibly proud to do it. We think that marking a segment of roadway or highway or an interchange in memory of these people is fitting because that’s where they worked,” Powell said in his address to the family. “Your family member, Fred Looney, gave his life, which is the ultimate sacrifice, to the citizens of this state. ... I just want to say to the family, ‘We’re here for you.’ ... We want to do anything we can to help the family.”
According to Office Down Memorial Page, the Georgia State Patrol has lost 26 persons in the line of duty — 15 in automobile accidents, three to gunfire, two who were struck by vehicles and six in vehicle pursuits. Only four troopers were killed in the line of duty, according to the website, since 1984, the latest being Cpl. Chadwick LeCroy on Dec. 27, 2010.