James Lindsey isn”t ready to walk away from public service just yet, but he hung up one uniform Thursday.
Lindsey, 67, has served for 33 years as a deputy with the Oktibbeha County Sheriff”s Office and 31 years as District 3 Constable. He”ll serve at least one more term as constable — Lindsey is running unopposed — but his time as a deputy has reached an end.
“You just know. It”s something you can see in dealing with people. Back then, you could talk to people a lot more. You can”t now,” he said of his decision to retire.
People are why Lindsey stuck with law enforcement for the past 33 years. When his high school buddy Sheriff Dolph Bryan recruited him to the department back in the ”70s, Lindsey didn”t get a rush out of arresting people. But helping people was so gratifying, he knew he had found his calling.
Lindsey continued to work as a property control supervisor at Mississippi State University, keeping tabs on inventory, while serving part time with the OCSO until Bryan convinced him to come aboard full time in 1987. During his time as a deputy, Lindsey has collected plenty of stories to tell.
The first tale came soon after he had joined the OCSO part time.
“I came in one afternoon and the sheriff said we had to go on a raid. Some people were selling illegal beer and whiskey,” he recalls.
Lindsey, another part-timer, two deputies and the sheriff got ready to go arrest some bootleggers. Sheriff Bryan handed Lindsey a shaky old .38 in a holster and “a handful of the lowest class of bullets you could shoot in a gun.”
That and “a badge the size of a quarter” were all Lindsey had to differentiate himself from the bad guys. This may have made lesser men apprehensive. But not Lindsey.
“Of course, I was in hog heaven because I was ready to go,” he said.
The posse checked one spot and found it abandoned. They arrived at another in the Rockhill community and found the building occupied.
Lindsey was sent around back to block the exit. It wasn”t until he arrived at the back door alone that he realized his orders were a little vague.
“I get around back and said to myself ”What am I supposed to do if somebody comes out the door? They gave me a gun. If somebody comes out, am I supposed to shoot them?”” he said.
“I thought he knew what to do,” said Bryan. “If anybody ran out the back door, stop them. He learned on the job real quick.”
Luckily, Lindsey”s on-the-job training didn”t start that day.
“Thank the Lord nobody come out. After we got back and tended to our business, I asked what in the world was I supposed to do. Shoot them? They said ”No. You”re supposed to make them come out the front door,”” he said.
Not all of Lindsey”s memories are as jovial. Like the day in 1991 when he was the first deputy on the scene of a disturbance in the Bluefield community where a man had shot his wife.
Lindsey arrived on the scene and stepped out of his patrol car and bullets started flying. He was struck in the face just to the right of his nose by a .22 bullet which shattered, leaving the fragments inside his head to this day.
Unsure where the shots were coming from, Lindsey couldn”t get back to his patrol car for shelter. The echo of the rifle sounded like it was coming from the woods, but the shooter was laying on his stomach inside a mobile home.
This was in the days before deputies began carrying walkie-talkies, so Lindsey had no way to report what had happened to his fellow deputies.
Luckily, more deputies soon arrived on the scene and eventually flushed the man out of the trailer with tear gas. Lindsey went off to the hospital and the shooter went to jail for 60 years.
Lindsey was out of work approximately six weeks while he recovered. Later, he had to have eye surgery due to the incident and missed another month of work. He won”t miss the part of the job where people shoot at him.
Despite the occupational hazards, Bryan said his old fishing buddy has been an exemplary deputy.
“He”s a fine man. He was always prompt and on time. He didn”t slack at all,” he said of Lindsey. “We had a lot of fun. There”s been a lot of tears and a lot of laughs.”
And his old friend will still be there if Bryan needs him. As a constable, Lindsey maintains all the law enforcement powers of a deputy.
But if he can help it, he”s going to stick to his constable duties and catch up on some housework in the meantime. Not to mention some hunting and fishing.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.