A man called “a great public servant” was laid to rest Monday, Feb. 22.
Benjamin Martin Moates, 67, died Feb. 18 from complications caused by COVID-19.
With nearly a quarter century in law enforcement, Moates was a three term Coffee County Sheriff who also served with the New Brockton Police Department and volunteer fire and rescue organizations. Moates was “a great public servant in the truest sense,” said Coffee County E911 Coordinator Marvin McIlwain in a social media post following news of Moates’ death.
New Brockton Mayor Kathryn Holley agrees. “Ben was a wonderful Christian man, with a servants heart,” she said. “He was always helping people, which made him an outstanding law enforcement officer and fireman.
“Ben was a mentor to many young people,” Holley said. “We will miss him terribly.”
That is true, said Enterprise Mayor William “Bill” Cooper. “I knew Ben for many years and he was a true public servant,” Cooper said. “He served Coffee County well as sheriff and his selfless service in many activities and agencies throughout his life demonstrated his love for his fellow man and his community. He was a good person and he will be greatly missed.”
Moates served with the New Brockton Police Department from 2007 to 2013. Before he joined the NBPD, he worked with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department from 1990 until 2007. There he served the department in every capacity from a deputy to a narcotics officer to chief deputy before being elected as sheriff in 1995 and serving in that role for his last 12 years with the department.
Moates was a 1972 graduate of Enterprise High School and attended Enterprise State Junior College. He was a graduate of the State of Alabama Law Enforcement Academy.
His law enforcement career began as a volunteer under Coffee County Sheriff Brice Paul and progressed throughout the years culminating in his successful terms as sheriff of Coffee County for 12 years.
Moates was an active member of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, a volunteer fire fighter with Tri-Communities Fire Department and was involved with Iron Warrior Motorcycle Club.
Before Moates became a law enforcement volunteer and professional, he farmed with his father and brother on Martin Moates Farms in Enterprise. He was preceded in death by his parents, Martin and Jeanette Moates and his sister, Emily Sawyer.
Former Coffee County Emergency Management Agency Director John Tallas remembered Moates as one of the first government officials he met after being hired as the Coffee County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director in 1999. “He greeted me with a warm smile, a firm handshake and an offer to assist me in any way he could,” Tallas said.
Tallas said that shortly after starting his new job, one of the Sessions Peanut Company’s warehouses full of unshelled peanuts caught on fire at night.
Tallas said the Enterprise Fire Department was the only paid fire department in the county at that time and that all the volunteer fire departments responded to assist at the emergency. It was during that first fire that Tallas became impressed with the sense of genuine community in the county. “I did not know many of the firefighters on scene but one face I immediately recognized was Sheriff Ben Moates, always known as Benji,” he said. “In addition to his law enforcement duties, he was also a volunteer firefighter and was manning a fire hose spraying the fire.
“I would eventually become the EMA director and would have many opportunities to work with Sheriff Moates and his team of dedicated law enforcement professionals as we responded to the myriad disasters occurring within the county over the years,” Tallas recalled. “I can honestly say that I never saw Ben raise his voice in anger or demonstrate anything but the highest level of professionalism.
“He was more than the chief county law enforcement officer and he readily gave of his time as a volunteer always willing to do whatever was necessary to serve our citizens,” Tallas added. “He was a friend to many, including myself.”
Moates served as a reserve officer in 1984 with the sheriff’s department, at the request of Sheriff Brice Paul, before getting his law enforcement certification in 1988 and joining the department full time in 1990 after attending the police academy.
Moates was a former chief of the Tri-County Volunteer Fire Department and a volunteer with the New Brockton Rescue Squad. A graduate of the Southwest Alabama Police Academy, Moates trained as a basic narcotics investigator and attended the military police narcotics investigation classes. He also received training in jail management.
“Sheriff Moates lost his battle with COVID,” Tallas added. “And while his physical presence is gone, his spiritual presence will always be in the minds and hearts of his family and friends.”