Edwards chief retires

Published 11:19 am Monday, June 29, 2015


EDWARDS — Thursday marked the end of an era for the Edwards Police department as its leader retired after nearly 40 years.

Edwards Police Chief Lewis Johnson retired at the end of his shift after 39 years patrolling the streets of the town of about 1,300 near the Hinds-Warren County line. The 62-year-old had spent more than 38 years as chief.

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“I’m a community policeman,” Johnson said. “Everybody calls me. Everybody’s got my cellphone number.”

He’s not kidding. During the course of 45 minutes Wednesday, Johnson’s cellphone rang at least two dozen times. There were calls from concerned residents, city workers and parents whose children are on one of Johnson’s five youth basketball teams.

“I’ve got five teams of 5- to 14-year-olds,” he said. “I had another but six was kind of getting to me.”

Coaching youth sports is where the longtime lawman plans to put his focus in retirement. A team of seventh-graders he coaches will compete for a national AAU championship in Dallas next month.

“Most of them go on to play high school and college basketball after they leave,” Johnson said.

Sports were always Johnson’s first passion. He played baseball in high school and at Utica Community College and at Bishop College in Dallas.  Johnson never set his sights on becoming chief or even joining the police department. But the job worked out perfectly for him.

“I used to coach Little League baseball and knew if I took a job anywhere else I couldn’t do that,” he said.

The mayor at the time talked him into going onto the night shift in August 1976. None of the other night shift officers at the time could read or write, Johnson said.

“I ended up enjoying it. I had some tough times, but nobody can say I mistreated them. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t do nothing different,” Johnson said.

Though he was sworn to protect and serve the community in western Hinds County, Johnson has been a great asset for Warren County, Sheriff Martin Pace said.

“He was a fixture in western Hinds County and certainly someone who we could call on whenever we needed assistance,” Pace said. “Countless times over the years, when we have had warrants for people or were trying to locate people during an investigation, if they were located anywhere near Edwards, Chief Johnson would know them and be able to find them for us.”

Johnson said he is so familiar with the area and its people because it is his hometown and he’s spent so many years coaching youth sports.

“All the people age 39 and down, I’m the only chief they’ve ever known,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he’s also grateful for the help he’s received from Vicksburg and Warren County over the years. The vast majority of the police department’s fleet are vehicles donated from either Vicksburg or Warren County.

“I have on more than one occasion gone to our board of supervisors and requested that vehicles we would have surplused be donated to Edwards,” Pace said. “Anytime we needed to locate someone or needed a warrant served or a summons served, he was always very courteous and professional and would be there to assist Warren County.”

Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong, whose wife is postmistress in Edwards, said Johnson’s caring attitude would be missed, though his community service will carry on.

“He’s a very compassionate guy working with very limited resources. At the same time he has a lot of love and concern for the Town of Edwards. He’s well known and highly respected. He’s someone I’ve enjoyed working with over my 30 years of law enforcement,” said Armstrong, who is a retired Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol Trooper.