Billy Pace, known for his photos, dies at 75

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 20, 2001

[04/20/01] William M. “Billy” Pace Sr., known for support of his church and youth and for never going anywhere in Vicksburg without his camera died Wednesday, April 18, 2001, in the Trace Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He was 75.

“For a photographer, there are people who think they are artists and people who are artists,” said camera store owner Mike McCoy. “He documented so much of the stuff that has happened around here.”

Mr. Pace was a native of Vicksburg and a graduate of Carr Central High School. He worked with the Waterways Experiment Station Mississippi River Basin Model in Clinton until he was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he was trained in classified communications. He served in World War II from 1943 until 1946.

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Upon discharge, he returned to Vicksburg and to the Clinton model, later transferring to WES in Vicksburg. When he retired in January 1981, Mr. Pace was chief of the Office of Administrative Services at the federal scientific research facility.

As a member of First Presbyterian Church, Mr. Pace and his wife, Betty, served as junior high youth counselors from 1952 until 1983. He also served as an usher, a deacon and as an elder.

“He was a perfect example of what it means to be a faithful Christian servant,” said the Rev. Steve Bryant, pastor of First Presbyterian. “He would do anything the church needed him to do. Every Sunday he and the Pace family would check the church and make sure all the doors were locked,” Bryant said. “They would help the church in big ways, but also in little ways.”

Pace was also a member of the Vicksburg Auxiliary Police, which was organized under Civil Defense, and served that organization in many capacities, including chief and assistant chief.

When Sheriff Paul Barrett went into office in 1969, Mr. Pace was called on to help organize the Warren County Sheriff’s Department Mounted Search and Rescue Posse. When the mounted members of the organization were called on to help search for a lost person or a crime suspect, Mr. Pace served as the liaison between the sworn law enforcement officers and the mounted volunteers, manning the command post and relaying vital information.

“He always brought the cold drinks and the goodies,” recalled Joe Scott, another former member of the posse and a former fellow WES employee. “And he would help look for people, but he didn’t like to ride a horse.”

In addition, Mr. Pace was a paid part-time deputy sheriff under Barrett assigned to provide security for the Warren County Vicksburg Public Library from 1982 to 1993.

When his son became sheriff in 1996, Mr. Pace was again commissioned a deputy sheriff.

His photos have documented much of Vicksburg’s history during the past century, and several were used by The Vicksburg Post in its 1983 Centennial Edition. He received his first camera, a Kodak Brownie, in 1934 at age 9, and was seldom seen without it. He photographed every fire truck that served with the Vicksburg Fire Department until shortly before his death. Another photographic passion was documenting his community. He would often photograph every building on a street, saying the scenes would not always be like they were photographed.

“He was literally one of my first customers when I first opened,” McCoy said. “He always had a camera glued to him.”

His rounds through the city resulted in abundant friendships.

“I have known him for more than 70 years, said Eugene Hall. “When we were in school, I bought his secondhand books, and then the next year his brother Jimmy would buy them from me.”

“He would help you any way he could,” said Betty Hall.

Patsy Halford knew Billy Pace at First Presbyterian. “He was a kindhearted Christian man who loved his family, who loved his church and who loved his community,” she said. “He just couldn’t do enough for this community.”

Mr. Pace was preceded in death by his parents, E.M. and Stella Anderson Pace; a sister, Mary Elizabeth Pace Kirkley, and a nephew, Foster Dale Kirkley.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Jean Martin “Betty” Pace of Vicksburg; a brother, James I. Pace of Birmingham; a daughter, Suzanne Pace Ford of Vicksburg; two sons, Sheriff W. Martin Pace Jr. and Warren A. Pace, both of Vicksburg; and three grandchildren, Ashleigh Ford, Will Pace and Taylor Pace, all of Vicksburg.

Services will be at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Fisher-Riles Funeral Home with the Rev. Steve Bryant officiating. Burial will be in Cedar Hill Cemetery. Visitation will begin at 1 p.m. at the funeral home.

Pallbearers will be Ricky McMullen, Fred Shields, Sammy Childress, Robert Pell, Joe Scott, Kenneth Halford, Steve Ashby and Mike McCoy.

Honorary pallbearers will be Gene Wylie, Johnny Reaves, Clyde Posey, Hubert Hearn, Dr. Russell Barnes and Dr. Tom Mitchell.

Memorials may be made to the First Presbyterian Church, 1501 Cherry St., or to Feed the Children, P.O. Box 36, Oklahoma City, Okla., 73101-0036.