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Large crowd pays final respects to SoBo mayor

As United States and Virginia state flags flew at half-staff over the state capitol building and in South Boston in honor and memory of South Boston Mayor and former Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard Carroll Thackston, citizens from around the commonwealth paid their respects during a service of witness to the resurrection held Thursday at First Presbyterian Church.

Virginia Army National Guard Chaplain (LTC) J. D. Moore eulogized Thackston as a true “soldier’s servant,” the term servant to be used in a positive way, rather than a negative one.

“Some people have great testimonies in life, and others have great testimonies in death,” said Moore, “while others have great testimonies in life and in death.”

Thackston’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Russell Lee, remarked what Thackston would have thought of the throngs who turned out to honor him.

“I can’t believe it.” He said it many times in consternation and fun, recalled Lee.

As a solider and public servant, Thackston made sure faith and freedom would be “ours forever,” Lee said.

“He was noted for his humility and general care for others, he gave me the first job I ever had at Daystrom.

You were never a stranger to him and always a friend, Lee continued.

“As a soldier, we salute you, as family members we love you, as Christians this is not goodbye, we will see you later in Heaven,” Lee concluded.

Among those paying their respects were Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker, former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator George Allen and Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long Jr., the current adjutant general of the Virginia National Guard.

Decker recalled Thackston was instrumental in the transition between the former administration and that of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“During the transition there were early mornings and late nights, and General Thackston would drive up 360 by himself and spend the day with us and late into the night, sometimes.

“Lots of decisions have to be made, and you look at each agency and evaluate and figure out what needs to be done.

“He was very instrumental in helping us with reviewing the guard and seeing what needed to be done moving forward and selecting a new adjutant general.

“One night, it was late, and I gave him a hug and said, ‘I can’t thank you enough. We couldn’t be doing this without you and your institutional knowledge and history.’

“He said, ‘Madam Secretary, it’s my pleasure. It’s our Virginia National Guard.’”

Thackston was adjutant general at a time of significant events, both in Virginia and abroad, noted Allen, the governor who appointed Thackston to that post.

From his perspective, it was one of the most important decisions he made as governor, and “clearly, it was the right decision,” Allen recalled.

Allen and Thackston together visited Virginia National Guard troops, including Thackston’s son, Jonathan, after their deployment to war-torn Bosnia.

Thackston accompanied Allen on what Allen described as harrowing helicopter rides to survey damage from floods throughout Virginia, and Thackston also was instrumental in moving Virginia National Guard headquarters to Fort Pickett, at that time a military training facility. 

“That facility is now doing training not only for the Guard but for the Armed Forces, and even Canada is doing training there,” said Allen.

“The point is, General Thackston to me was a consistently loyal, caring Virginia patriot who is now in Heaven.”