• 50°

Homecoming Benevolent Club names officer, firefighter of the year

Vicksburg Police Chief Milton Moore paid homage to some heroes at Wednesday’s Vicksburg Homecoming Benevolent Club’s annual Officer/Fire Person of the Year Banquet.

About 100 people attended the annual banquet to honor the nominees and winners of the awards for Vicksburg police officer and firefighter of the year, Warren County Sheriff’s deputy of the year and Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper of the year.

The police officer of the year award is named after Moore’s father, Artel Moore, who was a Vicksburg officer.

Winners this year included Sgt. Dewayne Smith with the Vicksburg Police Department, Fire Department EMT Joshua Davies, Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Rainey and Trooper Eddie Liggins.

Also honored was 9th Circuit District Drug Court Field Officer Daniel Harris, who was honored for his 15 years of service to the court.

After talking about his father’s influence on his life, Moore discussed the men who broke a major barrier with the city’s police force.

“This month is Black History Month and we all should know our history,” Moore, a former officer of the year recipient, said. “I’m talking about the first black officers to work for the Vicksburg Police Department — an honor roll; all of whom I grew up knowing and admired.

“These officers laid the foundation that helped pave the way for me to be standing here as your chief. They were pillars in this community and well respected, they helped break the color barrier in the police department in the early ’60s.

“These officers are the shoulders that we stand on. (I’m) Talking about Joe Minor, Roosevelt Bunch, Clyde Harris, Tom Harris, Walter Cole, Herman Redick. Those officers endured so much and went on to have a successful career in law enforcement,” an emotional Moore said.

He recalled his father’s career as a Vicksburg officer.

“He started in the 1970s. It wasn’t easy being a black officer during that time. It was difficult for a black officer here in this city to arrest a white man or to simply give him a ticket,” Moore said. “That was a short 45 years ago.”

Through all the struggles those first black officers endured and overcame, he said,  “It allows me to stand here today so that when I get up to speak, I think of all those who have come before me, and I know how far we have come, but there is still work to be done.

“We have to carry the torch; we have to lead by example. We have to walk the part, we have to dress the part every day.”

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of the day when people would not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character, Moore said the statement inspires him to “push younger officers to reach their full potential and not become complacent. We all need someone in our corner who has our best interests at heart.

“People want you to be successful until you become successful,” he said. “Once you reach a certain level of success, you have work twice as hard to sustain it.”

Moore commended the finalists for the awards, “You all are well deserving of this award.”

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.

email author More by John