'Finally get to be brothers' — Gammills' ties to fallen deputy bring men together after seven decades

James Gammill and his wife, Janice, meet with his brother, Don Gammill, and his wife, Nancy, for lunch in Douglasville earlier this week. The two men recently discovered that they were half-brothers and the uncle to fallen Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Blake Gammill.

Don Gammill calls it “faith” that brought him and his half-brother, James, together.

The two grew up in different states and never knew each other existed.

A couple months ago, they met for the first time in person.

James, 81, grew up in Mississippi with 10 other siblings along with their mother following the divorce of their parents.

James’ father, Haven McKinley Gammill, moved to Georgia and remarried. The couple had two sons — Don and Del.

After over 76 years, the brothers finally met and have become friends.

“It is great, it really is,” said Don, who is 77. “I didn’t know I had another family. We have been estranged for many years. ... It’s just by faith that we finally get to be brothers.”

All that changed when James’ son, Mark, spotted a marker honoring the memory of former Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Blake Gammill.

In February 2005, Blake was the first Douglas County deputy killed in the line of duty when he was fatally shot serving a warrant on Highway 5.

Don and his wife, Nancy, had just moved to the county from Mississippi 15 years ago when Mark inquired if they were related to Deputy Gammill.

After doing some research and with the help of the sheriff’s department, Don, discovered he was Blake’s uncle.

Don reached out to Del to no avail.

“It was a while back, and he wasn’t interested in meeting,” James’ wife, Janice said.

The couple did not press the issue until they finally got some contact information about Don.

After reaching out to Don, the brothers met for the first time earlier this year. They now text each other and talk on a regular basis, and have had lunch on a couple more occasions.

Del has since inquired about meeting Don.

“It is wonderful to finally get to meet my brothers,” said James, who has only one other sister still alive. He is the youngest of his 11 siblings.

They are proving that its never too late to unite with a family member.

Both say their only regret is not knowing each other a lot sooner.

“All three have some medical issues so it is not known how long they will still be around,” Janice said. “It is wonderful that they are connecting. James is excited about having a living brother. It has just been James and his sister for a long time.”

The brothers’ sons have also started to form a relationship. Don says the sons are both musically gifted and share that common joy.

“If it’s God’s will, we will still have a lot of good times to share,” Don said. “It’s been almost 80 years since we have united. It is fantastic.”