Georgia correctional officer slain by fugitives remembered as a hero

Forty years after he graduated, Sgt. Curtis Billue returned Saturday to Wilkinson County High School, his body at rest in a flag-draped casket.

Billue’s funeral was held at his alma mater out of necessity. It’s the only facility in this rural Middle Georgia town big enough to handle all the mourners – roughly 600, mostly fellow law enforcement officers – who gathered to pay tribute to a quiet hero.

RELATED: Condolences flood in for slain Georgia officers

EXCLUSIVE: How the manhunt for Georgia fugitives unfolded

The 58-year-old state correctional officer was killed Tuesday after two inmates on a prison transport bus somehow managed to escape their shackles and breach a security gate, fatally shooting Billue and Sgt. Christopher Monica, 42.

“Curtis Billue is a hero,” Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Greg Dozier said. “He gave his whole life protecting others. Curtis Billue made me proud.”

Billue, according to those who knew him best, wasn’t the type of guy to go fishing for compliments. They remembered his discipline and drive – that work ethic enabled him to make the Clark Atlanta University football team as a walk-on. By his senior year, the undersized defensive end had won a starting job, said his brother, Bruce Billue.

More than anything, his brother was someone you could always count on – a man of his word who never shirked responsibility.

When his elderly father could no longer live alone, Billue, one of eight siblings, became his primary caregiver.

“That says something about the kind of man Curtis Billue was,” said eulogist Harold Banks, pastor of Mt. Tilla Baptist Church in neighboring Irwinton.

The U.S. Army veteran, who joined the Department of Corrections in 2007, was “the ultimate professional,” said Cedric Taylor, warden of Baldwin State Prison in Milledgeville and Billue’s boss. He typically rose before dawn and was devoutly punctual.

He was also fiercely independent, an adventurer at heart. Banks said Billue, a wildlife enthusiast, had not abandoned his dream to live in Alaska.

It’s a move his siblings would’ve dissuaded. They lost their mother just 11 months ago. Their father, Revon Billue, is now 94 and confined to a wheelchair. Curtis, a divorced father of two sons, would soon be the patriarch.

“Curtis, you’re so wonderful to think of but so hard to live without,” sister Denise Billue, of McIntyre, said Saturday.

Banks implored family members and co-workers to forgive Ricky Dubose and Donnie Russell Rowe, the two men accused of killing Billue and Monica.

“Acknowledge God by forgiving those who committed this atrocity against you,” Banks said.

Let the justice system handle the retribution due the alleged killers, the pastor said. Dubose and Rowe were arrested Thursday in middle Tennessee after nearly three full days on the run

The punishment may well be death.

Stephen Bradley, the district attorney in the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, said he won’t decide how to proceed with the prosecution until after seeking indictments against the two men, who are expected to be extradited back to Georgia this week.

Meanwhile, Banks, referencing the inmates’ improbable escape, said he’s convinced the two officers didn’t die in vain.

“It’s going to save some other officers’ lives as a result of what happened,” he said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Parents file $750,000 lawsuit against Tennessee trampoline park
Parents file $750,000 lawsuit against Tennessee trampoline park

A Tennessee family filed a $750,000 lawsuit against Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park in Cordova.  Two parents filed the lawsuit in Shelby County Circuit Court last week on behalf of their son, who was injured on a rope course at the park in September 2017.  “He was given a harness by an employee, and after he had...
Texas schoolwork asking for 'positive aspects' of slave life 'unacceptable'
Texas schoolwork asking for 'positive aspects' of slave life 'unacceptable'

U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, took to Twitter on Thursday to call out a San Antonio school assignment about slavery that he called “unacceptable.”  Castro tweeted an image of the assignment, which asked students to list both positive and negative aspects to living as a slave.  The charter school where the assignment...
Southwest Airlines reportedly gives $5,000 checks to passengers from Flight 1380
Southwest Airlines reportedly gives $5,000 checks to passengers from Flight 1380

At least three passengers who were aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 received a $5,000 check in a letter from the airline, CNN reported Friday. One passenger, 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, New Mexico, died after debris from the plane’s engine blew out a window. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing...
Police: Man stays at bar for 30 minutes after being stabbed
Police: Man stays at bar for 30 minutes after being stabbed

A man who was stabbed early Thursday morning while at a Pittsburgh bar remained at the establishment for 30 minutes before leaving, investigators said. Police were called about 2 a.m. to a residential area near Pollock’s Cafe. Investigators said the 40-year-old victim was stabbed in the shoulder after he apparently got into a fight with another...
Arizona teachers approve strike, will walk out next Thursday
Arizona teachers approve strike, will walk out next Thursday

Arizona teachers voted in favor of a strike Thursday night as the educators demanded higher wages and better classroom conditions, KTAR reported. The walkout is scheduled for next Thursday. “Seventy-eight percent of the school employees in this state said yes,” Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association said during...
More Stories