Old hand gets new honor to go with ‘new’ heart

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 16, 2009

Deceptive advertising?

This year’s Miss Mississippi official pageant book has a full page saluting Warren County Deputy Sheriff Leroy Williams as “2009 Volunteer of the Year” at least partly on the assumption he wouldn’t be on duty.

But he is.

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On his 58th birthday, Williams received a new heart — or at least had a makeover on the one he has.

For 30 years, Williams has been a vital part of the annual pageant as a fixture in security, but this year it didn’t appear he was going to make it.

The quintuple bypass heart surgery was May 1, the day after he went in for a checkup.

“I wasn’t even aware I was sick,” said Williams in a sit-down interview while he was on duty at the Vicksburg Convention Center. “It was that serious.”

Williams came back to work just three weeks after the major surgery and three months before his doctors anticipated he would fully recover.

The Miss Mississippi Corporation had already printed an ad in its pageant book stating that Williams was not going to work this year and according him the honor.

But he fooled everyone and came back to work feeling brand new without any complications. “I feel like I’m 35 again,” he said. “Initially, they (doctors) didn’t think I was going to come back to work until August. I wanted to come back. I’m used to being around people.”

He said his health is in good condition, but there are days when being on his feet can take a toll on his well-being.

Regardless of the long hours he has put in as a deputy, his dedication to serving the public cannot be compromised.

He said the best part about his job is the “people.”

“I missed the people,” said Williams. “And the girls have been wonderful. Mississippi can be truly proud of the girls.”

During pageant week, he is in charge of monitoring the event with help from several other deputies and Vicksburg police officers.

He credits his knowledge from years of experience. “You learn the ins and outs through years and years and years of experience,” he said.

David Blackledge, chairman of the Mississippi Corporation and executive producer of the pageant, presented Williams with an award during Wednesday night’s opening round of preliminary competition.

Nowadays, Williams likes to spend time being called “Grandpa” to his two grandchildren, and he has one more on the way.

“I enjoy being Grandpa. I take them out and buy things. Do things that Grandpas do,” he said. As for rearing any future Miss Mississippis, he said, “it is totally up to them. We’ll have to wait and watch.”


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at mchan@vicksburgpost.com