JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Deputy James Blair had been in law enforcement over 50 years, and at 77 years old, he knew everyone.
Most everyone he knew thought of him as a good friend.
“James Blair was one of a kind. He was a man’s man, a fine lawman, a fine family man. It’s just heartbreaking,” said Southern District U.S. Marshal Mark Shepherd.
Blair was known to have coffee with his friends wherever he was on a given day. His lifelong friend and pastor Brother Roger Lee said death probably can’t stop that little habit of his.
“If there’s a Waffle House in heaven, he met there this morning to get a waffle and a cup of coffee,” Lee said.
Blair had a great sense of humor, his friends said, and Sheriff Paul Mullins said he was the definition of forever young.
“He would ask me daily, ‘You wanna race?' And I’d say, ‘Naw, my knees are bad,' and he’d say, ‘Well I can beat you,‘” Mullins said.
Blair was laid to rest in Ruth Cemetery in Lincoln County after his service at Tutor Funeral home in Mendenhall.
It seemed as though Lee spoke for everyone present when he said, “I love this man. I love him for who he was, and I love him for what he stood for.”
Governor Tate Reeves presented the folded flag from Blair’s casket to his wife, Joyce.
“We’ve got a lot of people here that care for the family and that care about law enforcement officers that make the ultimate sacrifices in these very challenging times that we find ourselves in in America, in our state,” Reeves said.
Since Blair was killed on Friday, the hole in the world where he was is evident.
“Something is lost, taken from us, and it hits home, it really does,” said Forest Police Chief Will Jones.
“We have to be reminded that our law enforcement officers are getting up every day putting on their uniforms to protect us,” said Gov. Reeves.
Groups like the Patriot Guard Riders and Warriors of the Badge showed up along with dozens of law enforcement agencies from around the state to show support in many ways.
“Warriors of the badge tries to give donations to the family to help them through this troubling time, and we’re here to give this to the wife of Mr. Blair,” said Steve Reeves, of Ruth.
While the world feuds over the role and meaning of policing in America, Simpson County was filled with Mississippians who loved James Blair, and who back their local police. And of course, the “blue line” solidified in the face of grief.
“And we want to let his family know that his work is not in vain, and we want the Simpson County Sheriff’s Department and the residents of Simpson county to know that across the state of Mississippi and across this country, we have their back,” said Pelahatchie Police Chief Joseph Daughtry.
The man accused of killing Deputy Blair is charged with capital murder and is currently being held at the Rankin County Detention Center.