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Friends and family remember sheriffs

By Walter S. Hill
Special to The Signal

Tears, laughter, and smiles were all part of the emotions shared by a capacity crowd of family, friends, law enforcement officers and residents of Lowndes County gathered at the Lowndes County Jail on Friday afternoon.

The standing room 0nly crowd had gathered at the John Hulett Correction Facility for a memorial pictorial unveiling ceremony honoring former Lowndes County Sheriffs John Hulett and Willie Vaughner.

Finding it hard to hold back the tears, Capt. Laura Gresham, Lowndes County Jail administrator, expressed how the portrait unveiling project got its start.

“This project was first planned under sheriff Vaughner, and we had discussed placing a photo up of Sheriff John Hulett and he said to me, ‘Laura, lets wait awhile,’” she said. “Little did I know that several months later he (Sheriff Vaughner) would pass away before the project would be done.”

“Today, I am emotional because I know how hard these two men worked for the better of Lowndes County in their service as sheriff,” Gresham said. “They are gone, but not forgotten and this tribute is done in respect for their service and leadership.”

“He would be pleased with this honor today, because he was that kind of person: humble, hardworking, and dedicated,” recalls former Chief Deputy Sheriff Willie Ruth Myrick, who served under former Sheriff John Hulett.  “He loved the job and he loved the people. He had a compassion for helping young people and demonstrated his passion for public service daily and I enjoyed working with him. He inspired me to run for public office and I did so and won and was elected Tax Assessor of Lowndes County.”

With her  son Justin Vaughner  and her daughter Willetta Vaughner standing at her side, the wife of the former Sheriff Willie Vaughner, Lucy Vaughner, spoke with teary eyes about her husband during the ceremony.

“He would be proud of this moment, this honor, because he was a man who loved his job, serving people, loving his family and working to make a difference throughout the County,” she said. “You all got to know Vaughner, the sheriff – I knew him as Vaughner, my husband, the father, and the man who dedicated his life to public safety and public service. We miss him and forever shall love him. Thank you for this honorable tribute.”

Former sheriff department administrator Arlean Allen shared with the audience some of her most memorable memories she had of both of the former sheriffs.

Others who shared expressions included, former sheriff deputy Jerome McQueen, Lowndes County Commission Chairman Charlie King, EMA/DHS Director Walter S. Hill, and current sheriff Charlie “Chip” Williams.

Sheriff’s deputies Rufus Haralson and John “Big John” Williams shared the task of unveiling the wall of honor which displays a picture of both former sheriffs.

Both deputies had worked with both former sheriffs.

Capt. Gresham expresses her gratitude to everyone who assisted in funding the project and all who attended the honorary program.