By Crystal Tatum
COVINGTON -- Former Newton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Lee Varner died Thursday at his home at the age of 86 following a recent illness.
Varner served as county commission chairman for four terms, from 1977 to 1992. The county's drinking water reservoir, Lake Varner, was named in his honor.
Throughout Newton County, Varner, known affectionately as "Mr. Roy," is remembered as a man of great vision, who realized the need to secure the county's water supply and to grow its industrial base.
But according to family and friends, Varner always saw himself as a public servant, not a politician.
"He was the most remarkable politician I've ever seen," said family friend Sandy Beasley. "I've never known many personally, but if they were all like Roy Varner, we wouldn't have any problems. It seems like most politicians today, their agenda is a personal agenda and what they can get out of it for themselves. Roy was a person trying to do good for his community. He didn't care who got credit so long as it got done."
To his family, who knew him best, Varner was just as honorable in private as he was in public.
"He loved Newton County. That's what he talked about these last few days," said his granddaughter Tuesday Rawls. "His great loves were the Lord, his family and Newton County. For most people, especially politicians, it's all about self and making the almighty dollar. For him it was about being part of something greater than he was. I'm proud he was my granddaddy and I'm proud to say I'm a Varner because of who he was as a grandfather and who he was as a citizen of Newton County."
Varner was born on March 16, 1924, in Carnesville, Ga, to the late James Edgar and Emma Bellamy Varner. Proud of his roots, he often said, "I was born a farmer and will die a farmer."
Varner partnered with Henry Anderson to form Anderson-Varner Farms. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed in Germany.
Varner was elected as chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners in 1976 and took office in 1977. He retired in 1992.
Varner was a member of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church and attended Covington Christian Church.
He is survived by his wife, Charlyne Varner of Covington; daughter Anita Varner of Savannah; son and daughter-in-law Aaron and Ann Varner of Covington; sister and brother-in-law Frances and Bruce Armstrong of Athens; grandchildren Ginger and John Johnson and Tuesday and Todd Rawls, all of Covington; great-grandchildren Skye Johnson, Jonathan Johnson, Jet Rawls and Riley Rawls; other family and many friends.
Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at The Church at Covington with the Rev. Dr. Fred Hall and Rev. Tim Bolen officiating. Interment will be in New Covington Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 4-8 p.m. Saturday at Harwell-Wheeler Funeral Home at 2157 East St. in Covington.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Newton Medical Center Volunteer Services at 5126 Hospital Drive, Covington, GA, 30014. Those who wish to express condolences may sign the online register book at www.wheelerfuneralhome.com.