Benevolent club honors Sam Winchester, Brenda Johnson at Officer of the Year banquet

Published 2:42 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

While honoring the area’s top law enforcement officers and firefighters, the Vicksburg Homecoming Benevolent Club Wednesday night took time to give special recognition to two individuals whose work deserved special attention — former Warren County Sheriff’s deputy Lt. Sam Winchester and Vicksburg police crossing guard Brenda Johnson.

Both were honored by the club with plaques; Winchester’s wife Dendria accepted her husband’s plaque.

A longtime sheriff’s deputy, Winchester, who was the sheriff’s deputy of the year in 2007, died Aug. 30 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

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“He was my friend and an awesome officer,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said. “The only battle he lost was a battle with cancer. He was one of those guys that, just whatever needed to be done, Sam could handle it. He was my boat operator; he was my lead boat operator and actually the only one on the staff that was an actual pilot that piloted a big riverboat.”

“Sam also in many instances was the face of the sheriff’s office,” Pace said. “He did the majority of the Neighborhood Watch Programs — different public relations.”

Winchester, he said, was involved in every river rescue the sheriff’s office had.

“Every river rescue that we had, Sam would get the call; it could be the middle of the night, middle of the day, holiday, whatever and he would go,” he said, adding Winchester would leave his family “and come serve you. Like most law enforcement officers, he did it because he loved it. He was just a really special part of the Sheriff’s office and was my dear friend. And we all miss him.”

Pace turned to Winchester’s wife, “And we thank you for sharing him with us for so many years. God bless.”

VHBC President Willie Glasper said Johnson was honored for her outstanding and dedicated community service to the citizens of Vicksburg.

Vicksburg Police Chief Penny Jones said Johnson directs school traffic on Mission 66.

“Now, I’m a police officer. I’ve directed traffic before, but she’s got the job down pat. I believe she went to college for it and has a Ph.D.; there is nobody that can do it better,” Jones said. “And her clothes, from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet she is on point every single day. It is my pleasure to work with this young lady.”

The special recognition followed the presentation of the officer of the year and firefighter/paramedic of the year awards.

Receiving awards were Vicksburg police Lt. Claude Billings, officer of the year; Deputy John Williams Sr., deputy of the year; Vicksburg Fire Department Lt. Raymond Wilson, firefighter of the year; and Trooper 1st Class Darnika Mayfield, trooper of the year.

Mayfield, a former Warren County sheriff’s deputy, was the deputy of the year in 2017.

The diners attending the banquet also heard from Vicksburg Fire Chief Derrick Stamps, who told the first responders, “In case you haven’t felt it today, you are appreciated.

“In case you wanted to quit today, don’t. You are needed, in case you need to talk to someone. Listen; there are many who will listen and in case you haven’t heard it today, thank you. We appreciate what all departments do, from the police on down the line.”

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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