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Community mourns the loss of Sheffield

Sheffield Rentals owner William “Billy” Sheffield was known by many in Vicksburg and Warren County as the owner of a successful business.

But to his family, and to others who knew him over the years, Sheffield, who died Friday at age 76, was far more than that.

A lifelong resident of Vicksburg, he graduated from Culkin Academy and attended the Fort Smith Auction School. He served as a Warren County constable and then founded, along with his wife Pauline, Sheffield Rentals in 1976.

Sheffield was a life member of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks No. 95 in Vicksburg, a member of the Central Mississippi Retired Law Enforcement Officers, and was an avid supporter of the University of Southern Mississippi.

“He was the patriarch of our family and our leader and protector,” his granddaughter Haley Heggins said. “He was someone we all looked up to, and even people who were not in our family, they looked up to him, too. He just touched everybody’s life.

“Anything he could ever do for us, he would try and get it done.”

His daughter Sally Sheffield said her father “never met a stranger. It didn’t matter where he went, he met people and he ended up knowing people they may have known. It didn’t matter where in the United States he went, he knew somebody.

“He was very giving; kind and generous and he was a supporter of Vicksburg. Back when Western Auto was downtown, he was Santa Claus.”

“He loved his family and his grandkids more than anything in the world,” daughter Suzanne Heggins said.

She said he father would help anyone.

“It didn’t matter, rich or poor, he didn’t care,” she said. “If someone called and needed help, he would do anything to help them.”

She recalled the time Sheffield helped a family move a man’s body to South Carolina so he could be buried.

“He cared about kids a lot,” she added. “He was the biggest and the best; the biggest heart, biggest man, biggest smile, biggest everything.”

South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said Sheffield’s death “was a sad day for the city of Vicksburg.

“He was a person who just loved the city of Vicksburg,” Monsour said. “Anytime we needed something, he was there for us every single time. A lot of times he donated things to the city.

“We’ve lost a great, great person who just loved the city of Vicksburg. We’re sorely missing Mr. Sheffield, and we wish his family the best and we’re praying for his family.”

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. described Sheffield as a good businessman and supporter of the city.

“His support of Vicksburg will be truly missed for a long time to come,” he said.

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said he had known Sheffield, “Since I was about 10 years old.”

“We formed a friendship then and all the way up to the day he took his last breath, I considered him a true friend,” Mayfield said. “It was heartbreaking, to say the least, when I heard he had passed. He always made sure he was a part of the community. All you had to do was ask him, and if he could play a role, he did. I truly appreciated that.

“I pray the family will move ahead with Godspeed from here. We lost a truly great man in this city, in my opinion.”

BancorpSouth president Mark Buys said Sheffield “was a good friend of mine. He will definitely be missed by the business community. He was a great manager and he left behind a great business and his legacy will continue because he was a great manager, and he was a great family man.”

“People keep saying he was an icon in Vicksburg,” Suzanne Heggins said.

“We know how we feel about him, but it was just heartwarming to hear all of the little things that touched somebody’s life that was insignificant, possibly to him, but it changed somebody’s life and they remember it, and I loved that about him. He was just a special person.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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