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Pickett remembered as a man whose 'word was his bond'
Pickett Woodrow
Woodrow Pickett Sr.
The flag at Pembroke City Hall flew at half mast this week in honor of former mayor Woodrow Pickett Sr., who died Monday.
Pickett, 96, will be remembered as a natural leader and a man who’s “word was his bond,” said former councilman Billy Miles, 84.
“He was a great man to work with,” Miles said. “He was a wonderful Christian. He always spoke the truth and treated everybody fairly. He was a great, great man. I really looked up to him.”
Pickett was mayor from 1978-1990. Miles served on Pembroke City Council from 1963-83.
“He was a man of great courage and wisdom,” Miles said of Pickett. “I loved him dearly. He’s going to be missed here.”
Current Mayor Judy Cook also spoke fondly of Pickett. Cook was city clerk under Pickett during his three terms as the city’s chief executive officer. She said he believed in training, accountability and doing things by the book.
“He was very much about standard operating procedure, SOP, but he also was fair. I won’t forget that when I took over as clerk he called me into his office and told me ‘your family comes first, this job comes second,’” Cook said. “I had young children at the time and that meant a lot to me.”
Cook credited Pickett with establishing a more stringent accounting system for city finances at a time when there was much less state regulation. He also was the first mayor to require workers to wear uniforms, she said.
“He felt people who worked for the city represented Pembroke and should be proud to represent the city,” she said.
Cook said Pickett also was a “calm” man, who taught her to “be proactive instead of reactive.”
“A lot of people react to situations before they get all the information,” she said. “But he taught me to get all my facts straight before I take steps forward.”
Pickett, a Florida native, spent 26 years in the Army, served during the Korean War and retired as a master sergeant. He also retired as service manager from Hartzog Chevrolet Oldsmobile in Pembroke.
Pickett was married to the late Dorothy Mae Bacon Pickett, a Pembroke native who taught school for 31 years, according to a Centennial history of the town called “Pembroke 1995-2005.”
They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1992. The couple had two children – Wilson, now a developer in Richmond Hill, and Emily, who lives in Savannah – and a number of grandchildren.
“He and Ms. Pickett complimented each other so much,” said Cook, who noted that Pembroke was a much more insular community in those days.
“This was way back when you basically had to be born here to be considered a Pembrokian,” she said. “He just established himself here and was somebody you could relate to. He touched everything and everyone and had such a calming influence.”
But he also was tough, Cook said.
“I never heard him raise his voice, but he could strip the hide off you without raising his voice,” she said. “You got the message. I think he was able to do that because of his time in the military.”
Pickett was also involved in his church, First Baptist Church of Pembroke, where he served as a chairman of deacon and a Sunday school teacher.
Pembroke native Mary Warnell recalled that her family sat behind the Picketts in church on Sundays.
“I’ve known him through church and the community since he came here 50 years ago,” said Warnell, who is on the Bryan County Board of Education. “He was a fine Christian man, very easygoing and always calm and diplomatic.”
Cook said Pickett was “a Godly man. He walked the walk and talked the talk.”
“He combined family, he combined church and he combined the community,” she said. “He gave something of himself to all those aspects of his life.”
And while a park in the city now bears Pickett’s name – he was instrumental in the city’s acquisition of the land – it was his passion for the city that is his real legacy, Cook said.
“I think his great accomplishment, and this might sound trite, is that he loved Pembroke,” she said. “You might have some officials who you sense didn’t have a deep abiding love for their community, but he loved Pembroke. He loved his church. He loved his family. He was just a joy to be around.”

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