In a combined effort from Chambers County commissioners, the county engineer and the sheriff’s office, Chambers County Road 278 has been renamed J’Mar Abel Memorial Highway.
Abel, a 24-year-old Chamber’s County deputy, was killed in the line of duty on County Road 278 while engaged in a car chase pursuing a suspect on June 20, 2022.
During the chase, Abel’s car overturned after he left the road at a sharp turn and struck a ditch, according to police. Bystanders helped get Abel out of the car and performed CPR. He was then taken to a hospital where he passed away.
The chase began when Roanoke police officers attempted a traffic stop on LaFayette Highway in Roanoke, and the driver fled. The suspect was stopped near the Georgia state line and arrested.
At a commission meeting on Dec. 19, Abel’s fiancée, Jasmine Gaddist, and children, Bryson and Gianna, were presented with a replica of the signs that will be posted along Chambers County Road 278.
“I had no idea what they were doing,” Gaddist said. “They were just like, ‘You need to be here on this day,’ and I didn’t know until they turned the sign around.”She said it caught her by surprise. She found out members in the county had been working on getting the road renamed since the summer. She described the continued support from the community as “heartwarming.”
“I can’t really explain how much that whole county means to me and the whole community,” she said. “They just all showed us so much support and love and they try their best to honor J’Mar in any way that they can.”
Chambers County continues to work to keep Abel’s name alive, and Gaddist said that’s especially important for her kids. As they grow up, Bryson, 5, and four-month-old Gianna will be able to see how much he meant to the community and how much people loved him.
Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart said he remembers hiring Abel for the patrol division.
“He worked at the jail, and I had a couple of supervisors in the jail call me up one day when we had an opening. They said you need to look at this young man. They said he just does a great job.” Lockhart said.
When Lockhart asked Abel why he wanted to get into law enforcement, Lockhart said his reply was that he wanted to be able to help people and make a difference.
“I never did have a complaint,” Lockhart said. “I had somebody, a week after he got killed, call me up. (Abel) had written him a ticket, but they were talking about how nice he was, how polite he was even doing his job.”
Lockhart will be retiring as sheriff in January after serving 28 years in the position. His goal was to get County Road 278 renamed before then. The signs will officially be installed at the beginning of the new year.
“That’s just something I’m very proud that we were able to do before I retire,” he said.
It couldn’t have been done without the commissioners, County Engineer Josh Harvill and others in the community who were behind the project, Lockhart said.
“I think it’s a great thing. That’s the road that he lost his life on, and I think it’s an honor to know the commission did pass that for him and his family,” Lockhart said.
“It just means a lot,” Gaddist added. “He was so devoted and always wanted to be in law enforcement and he just always honored his job and honored law enforcement. To see them turn around and honor him is just a blessing and it makes me feel so good.”