Sheriff Grady Judd reflects on late father’s impact on his life, career

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – He’s credited with giving one of Tampa Bay’s most popular sheriffs his signature sense of humor and no-nonsense attitude.

This week, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is grieving the loss of his father, Grady Judd Sr., who he calls his “hero” and “best friend.” 

Courtesy Polk County Sheriff’s Office

“Dad would just look you in the eye and tell you just the way it was,” Sheriff Judd said.

Grady Judd Sr. died Saturday at the age of 88.

“He’s the one that gave me my sense of humor,” Judd said. “He’s the one that taught me my work ethic. He’s the one that taught me you do what’s right all the time, even if doing right’s painful, even if doing right’s not popular.”

Judd Sr. grew up watching the snow fall through cracks in his Tennessee home.

He hitchhiked to Florida after his own father died at a young age to find work so he could send money back to his mother and younger siblings.

He settled in Polk County where he started a career and raised a family with strong Christian values.

“He didn’t tell us how to live life. He lived life and showed us,” said Sheriff Judd.

Grady Judd Sr. (left), Grady Judd (center), Judd’s Uncle Joe (right)

He worked for Cadillac for 47 years and was a music minister for Crystal Lake Baptist, Griffin Baptist and other churches.

He was a 32nd degree Mason: Kathleen Lodge #338.

Judd was proud as his son climbed the ranks to become sheriff.

“He’d say ‘well, I saw you on Fox & Friends.’ I’d say ‘what’d you think?’ He said ‘I think they should have given you a little more time and you could have really told them,’” said Judd with a smile.

He wasn’t one for “Gradyisms” necessarily but Grady Judd Sr. said what he felt and taught his son to do the same.

“I would do anything in the world for ya,” said Judd Sr. in a video tribute for his son. “Keep doing what you’re doing the way you’re doing it because you are doing it right. Always remember Dad loves you.”

A memorial service is scheduled for Friday at Lakes Church located at 1010 East Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland (formerly Church at the Mall) in the Chapel at 11 a.m., with lunch to follow.

In lieu of flowers, Grady requested donations be made to Gideons International, PO Box 97256, Washington, DC 20090 or Cornerstone Hospice; 2140 CR 540a East, Lakeland, Florida 33812.

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