Ben Gamel

Ben Gamel (center) is officially retired after 63 years of public service. He is shown with his wife Linda and Judge Tim Riley, whom he served as bailiff. 

Ben Gamel is retiring after almost 63 years of public service. Friends and fellow public servants gathered at the Courthouse on Monday, June 13, to celebrate his extensive service and the memories made along the way.

To say that Ben has experience in law enforcement is a severe understatement. He went into the U.S. National Guard at the ripe age of 16, then went into the Air Force three days out of high school. He was there for four years before joining the Alabama Highway Patrol in 1960.

He worked as a valued state trooper in the midst of the Civil Rights movement and any Alabama politics in that time, until he left as a major in 1991 upon being appointed as Sheriff of Marshall County. He did not seek re-election, but instead served 15 years as a special deputy U.S. Marshal in federal court security in Birmingham.

He came back to Marshall County and began working at his now-retired position as bailiff for Circuit Judge Tim Riley in 2015.

You have to have a passion for justice and law enforcement to stay that long in such a demanding field, and Linda Gamel, Ben’s wife, can attest to his unending passion that lives even off the clock. “He’s not one of these ‘behind-the-back’ people; if you’re bad and he knows it, and he’s supposed to do something about it, he does it.”

“He arrests me about twice a week,” Linda joked.

Over the years, Ben worked under several notable names as a guard, including Coach Bear Bryant and Gov. George Wallace. He labeled them all as valuable experiences, noting both to be incredible people and calling Gov. Wallace one of the best men he has ever met. Ben says his experience working under Judge Riley has been really good for him and says the Judge is a wonderful man and a fine judge. He calls himself incredibly blessed for the opportunities and his career.

Judge Riley praised Ben for his professionalism over the years and his remarkable ability to de-escalate a situation and balance his graciousness with sternness. “He’s just so professional and courteous to people. He juries well and crowds well. There’ve been a few incidents before we had metal detectors where he has disarmed people, and it could’ve been a bad situation. But he wanted to keep everyone safe.”

“It’s the end of his government career, so it’s kind of a sentimental day,” Judge Riley said.

In his departure, the people he worked with remember him by several things besides his service, such as his unrelenting kindness and his unbelievable stories. He taught the people around him so much in his time with the government with his stories and experiences and he will certainly be missed.

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