Franklin Johnson

Franklin Johnson, left, is sworn in as sheriff with a Bible held by his son Robert Johnson in November 1998.

Franklin “Frank” Johnson, a retired lawman who served as sheriff of Moore County from 1997 to 2002, died Friday. He was 85.

A native of Aberdeen, Johnson graduated from Southern Pines High School in 1956. After spending nearly three years in the Army, he accepted an invitation to join the Southern Pines Police Department as a patrol officer.

Johnson left the agency months later to take a job with the State Highway Patrol. He went on to join the State Bureau of Investigation, where he was placed in charge of former Gov. Jim Hunt’s security detail during Hunt’s first term in office.

After retiring from the bureau, Johnson returned to Moore County to serve as chief deputy under former Sheriff Jim Wise. When Wise stepped down in 1997, he appointed Johnson as sheriff.

Johnson easily won election in 1998, fending off two challengers in the Republican primary and besting Democratic rival Charles G. Horne Jr. in the general election. In 2002, Johnson announced he would not seek a second term.

He told The Pilot he was leaving the Moore County Sheriff’s Office to spend more time with his adult son Robert “Bobby” Johnson, who had Down syndrome. Robert Johnson died in September 2017.

Franklin Johnson was succeeded as sheriff by his former chief deputy Lane Carter. In a phone interview on Monday, Carter said Johnson was a “great man and a great friend.”

“He was a mentor and a leader for multiple law enforcement officers, not only in Moore County but across the state,” said Carter, who retired in 2014. “Everybody in the profession looked up to him for his wisdom. He was a good man to work for, and people were glad to work for him.”

Johnson is survived by his wife Blanche. They had been married for 65 years, according to his obituary.

Writing in a statement on Friday, current Sheriff Ronnie Fields extended his “deepest sympathies to the Johnson family.”

"Moore County and the state of North Carolina has lost one of the greatest lawmen of our time with the passing of retired Sheriff Frank Johnson,” Fields wrote.

Family and friends will be received from 1 to 2 p.m. Tuesday at Boles Funeral Home in Southern Pines, with Johnson's service scheduled to follow the visitation. He will be buried at Bethesda Cemetery in Aberdeen.

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