In one of comedian Mel
Brooks' signature movie scenes (from "History of the World, Part 1"), he
plays Moses receiving the Commandments on the mountain from God. In typical
Brooks' fashion, he presents three tablets of five commandments each to the
people, but drops one tablet, smashing it to bits.
Let's list major problems affecting
black Americans. Topping the list is the breakdown in the black family,
where only a third of black children are raised in two-parent households.
The Miss-Lou’s breaking news:
Mickey Gilley will perform in concert Aug. 1
from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Vidalia Convention Center. Vidalia Mayor Hyram
Copeland said hydro funds will be used in 2016 to give Vidalia residents and
businesses a utility rebate. Mississippians will go the polls August 4 for
Democratic and Republican primaries, with many county and state offices on
The Advice Goddess:
She has a great circle of female
friends, but one of "the group" has a way of making backhanded comments
about my appearance that make her feel bad about herself.
Terry Savage on money:
There's definitely a delicate balance
between spending and saving in retirement, especially as more and more
people are reaching their 90s.
McAllister on health:
Often in health, nothing is what it
seems. Recommendations for healthy living seem to change continuously, as
Americans look for easier and quicker solutions to bypass the tried-and-true
methods of disease prevention.
Thomas Sowell thinking clearly:
Many people are looking at the recent Supreme Court decisions about
ObamaCare and same-sex marriage in terms of whether they think these are
good or bad policies.
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Sheriff’s career began, ended with motorcycle
by Charlie Mithchell
It has been a year since
one of Mississippi’s longest-serving sheriffs died, but people in Warren
County remember. Everybody has a Paul Barrett story. Most are about how he
stepped up when they needed it most.
Exemplary in the face of crime or disaster?
Yes. But that’s not how his career started. In one of those strange
coincidences, it was Barrett’s passion for motorcycles that got him into law
enforcement, and a motorcycle was at the center of an unceremonious end to
Paul Lamar Barrett grew to maturity in a big family (13 children) of South
Delta dirt farmers during the toughest economic years in American history.
Nobody had anything; the Barretts had less.
In his late teens, the military beckoned, as
it did many sons of the Depression. His experiences in the Army motor pool
fired him up.
Discharged, he was casting around Vicksburg
for any kind of work, really. Two good things happened. One is that he met
Juanita, who loved him and supported him all his days. The other is that he
heard Vicksburg was buying two Harleys for its police department. Might have
been 1954 Police Specials. Anyway, that was that. He applied.
The badge, gun
and ticket book were secondary. The appeal of riding a motorcycle all day —
and getting paid for it — was marvelous. It was as big a change from dirt
farming as Barrett told me he could imagine.
Fast forward to 1994. Barrett had been
elected sheriff six times.
He hadn’t ridden a motorcycle in a long time,
but was still in love with them. A wealthy acquaintance in Virginia knew
about his passion and shipped him a pristine Harley. Barrett, then 68, took
it out for a spin, and, well, quickly decided to give it back.
The giver said, “No,
it’s yours. Sell it if you don’t want it.” So Barrett did.
Not much later, the acquaintance got a ticket
for having shotguns in the rack in his vehicle while parked in Washington,
D.C. A big no-no. Rather than pay the fine, the person insisted the law
didn’t apply to him, claiming he was a sworn deputy in Mississippi.
Barrett was called before a grand jury,
appeared, and wrongly affirmed that the man was a sworn deputy (instead of a
“special” deputy). He was asked about the motorcycle, too.
He confirmed that he had received the generous gift and
mentioned that he had sold it — but he said $1,500 instead of $15,000.
That wasn’t accurate. Barrett was under oath.
A perjury indictment followed. Barrett admitted his error. Did not fight the
charge. He got a year in federal prison.
All the facts were put out there.
What did the people of Warren County do?
They re-elected him for a seventh term.
their sheriff. He had not been accused of misfeasance or malfeasance.
Not a penny of public money was involved. In its story, The New York Times
noted all this. Barrett, however, retired in light of a state law
prohibiting felons from serving.
The Times used the local
paper and other Vicksburg sources to recount a few stories of Barrett’s
Arrests for bank heists were made in 6 to 30
minutes. No homicides went unsolved. If an armed robber wasn’t caught in 10
minutes, Barrett and his exceptional deputies would stay on the hunt night
Less emphasis was given to his humanitarian
acts. “The Sheriff,” as he was always known, would be just as diligent in
recovering the body of a drowned person. The family needed that, he said.
Families also needed his compassion when he knocked on their doors with news
of horrible wrecks or accidents.
Long before cell phones, “social media” and
surveillance cameras in every store and on every corner, Barrett had a
network. There were 50,000 residents of the county all of them knew Paul
Barrett or knew who he was. Amid civil rights turmoil, everyone depended on
him to be calm and reasonable. There were a couple of attempts on his life,
including one by the KKK when he politely declined a membership offer.
Paul Barrett never held himself out to be
faultless. In his youth, he played as hard as he worked. Didn’t warm a lot
of church pews, either. After he decided to take up golf, he wasn’t exactly
accurate in his tallies.
But he never forgot how far he’d come from
the destitute conditions of his youth. He wanted others to have better days,
Here’s hoping there are Harleys in heaven.
Charlie Mitchell is a
Mississippi journalist. Write to him at