Longtime police executive Lonzo Roberson dies
He served 40-plus years with the Rome Police Department.
Longtime Rome police executive Lonzo Roberson, who rose to the rank of deputy police chief, died early Friday afternoon at the age of 68.
Roberson was hired onto the city police force in 1972 and retired in December of 2012 after a little more than 40 years with the department. He came back in 2016 and served as interim chief twice, between Hubert Smith and Elaine Snow, then again between Snow and current Police Chief Denise Downer-McKinney.
Roberson served as the right hand man to retired chief Hubert Smith for many years. Smith said he hated to get the news Friday because Roberson was not only a partner on the police force but also a longtime personal friend.
“He had that leader instinct about him,” Smith said. “He was a well-informed police officer and had a way of getting along with people.”
Smith said he recalled one instance where Roberson talked a Vietnam veteran out of committing suicide.
Roberson was a veteran of the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam himself.
Retired City Manager John Bennett called Roberson “a really great team player.” Bennett said Roberson’s cool demeanor served him well.
“He had a good sense of what was right and what was wrong and how to treat people,” Bennett said.
“His strength was people,” Snow said. “He was the type of person you could agree to disagree with, but he was always respectful of the other person’s opinion.”
City Manager Sammy Rich called Roberson’s death a tragedy.
“He was such an exceptional human being,” Rich said. “I hate that he’s not getting to have a long and fruitful retirement because I can’t think of a more deserving person. We’re thinking about the family right now. There’s never going to be another one like Lonzo.”
The public safety genes in Roberson’s blood were strong, as sons Brad and Dave Roberson have also made it their career. Brad is the director of field operations for the Rome-Floyd County Fire Department and Dave is a Major with the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department. Roberson is also survived by his wife of 47 years, Be Roberson.
Downer-McKinney said one thing she remembers is that when Roberson retired he said that when he walked out the door he wasn’t going to be one of those who kept coming back.
“But he loved his law enforcement family,” Downer-McKinney said. “This is such a shock for all of us.”
Rome-Floyd County Fire Chief Troy Brock said Roberson was well thought of across the entire public safety community, not just in Rome but across the entire region.
Dave said that his father died from complications of cancer and pneumonia.
“We got him baptized again before he passed,” Dave said. “Floyd Medical Center was great about that.”
Aside from policing, his horse ranch and his grandchildren were his passion. Dave said his father loved his two grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements and a complete obituary will be released at a later time.