City#039;s firefighters, police officers honored at Thursday banquet

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 27, 2007

Greenville's finest - its firefighters and police officers - were honored Thursday night at a banquet held at the Cambrian Ridge clubhouse.

The event was organized by Ada Lee Williams and her sister-in-law, Joy Casey, as a way to express their appreciation for all those who protect, serve and put their personal safety on the line for others.

School, city, county officials, civic leaders and the family members of the honorees were also on hand to be a part of the special occasion as they enjoyed a steak supper together.

&#8220As someone who oversees 3,500 boys and girls across the county and 500 teachers, I want you to know I recognize the impact your lives have on ours on a daily basis,” said Butler County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney.

&#8220I rode Bus 41 today, and I noticed throughout the town, at every traffic light, there was a police car and an officer there directing traffic and watching out for those children's safety,” Looney said.

&#8220It may sound like a little thing, but those little things add up. Whether it's letting kids climb on a fire truck, teaching them to stop, drop and roll, our DARE program, helping us win the Safe School Award (at Greenville High) - we are tremendously grateful for all your efforts and service.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Jeddo Bell said the evening was an opportunity to &#8220give praise to our fire department and police department.”

&#8220These are unsung heroes who work together and really support one another. I asked a local fire fighter, ‘Who is your best friend in the department?' He looked at me and said, ‘I don't have just one best friend. I feel the same way about everyone in the fire department.' Well, he put me in my place with the perfect answer,” Bell said with a smile.

Joy Casey presented certificates of appreciation from Governor Riley to each of the city's officers and fire fighters, along with their support personnel, the mayor, police chief, members of the city council and the city clerk's office.

&#8220I am both honored and surprised,” Councilmember Jean Thompson said when presented with her certificate.

&#8220I, too, appreciate all the work you do to help our city and its citizens; I am one of those citizens.”

The evening took a light-hearted turn when Bryant Mixon, newly retired sheriff of Dale County, &#8220roasted and toasted” his old friend and former law enforcement partner, Police Chief Lonzo Ingram.

&#8220Lonzo taught me a lot about police work. He taught me how to testify,” Mixon said.

&#8220The lawyer asked Lonzo in court, ‘You say you saw this man coming out of the drugstore at midnight and you were 100 yards away. Just how far can you see at night?'

Lonzo said, ‘I can see the moon. How far is that?' I knew right then I would learn a lot from this man,” Mixon said.

Mixon also shared a story from Lonzo's boyhood. &#8220When Lonzo was a little boy, he was in the church foyer, looking up at the names on the walls by the flag. He asked the preacher, ‘Who are all those people?' The preacher said, ‘Son, those are the folks who died in the service.' Lonzo's eyes got really big. He said to the preacher, ‘Was it the 9:45 or the 11 a.m. service?'” Mixon said.

&#8220His folks had a hard time getting Lonzo back to church after that.”

After several more humorous anecdotes, Mixon moved on the &#8220toasting” part of the evening, recalling Ingram's unfailing support during the 1982 Dale

County sheriff's election and his love for family.

&#8220Lonzo was a man who was good to his family. His parents had gone through some tremendous reversals in life. I used to get so tired of him always stopping at this little grocery,” Mixon said.

&#8220Then I realized he was stopping to make sure his folks always had something to eat at night. Lonzo was always looking out for everybody else. He was way down at the bottom of his list.”

Guests were also entertained during the evening by Elnoria Grayson and her daughter, Carissa, who performed acapella renditions of &#8220His Eye is on the Sparrow” and &#8220God Bless America.”

Williams expressed her appreciation to the large number of local businesses and individuals who gave financial support to the banquet and numerous other worthy causes, including the Butler Activity and Training Center (founded by her brother, the late Mack Casey), over the years.

&#8220There aren't many places like Greenville. I sat down and counted it up and do you know, it came to more than $500,000 that has come to me for our handicapped children and others over the past 45 to 50 years,” Williams said.

&#8220You don't have to send your money overseas. There's nothing wrong with that, but there are always plenty of needs right here.”

Williams also said she hoped the appreciation banquet could become an annual event in the city.

&#8220I think we should have done this a long time ago.”