When Joe Young started working at The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department on July 1, 1984, he never had any idea he’d become a 30-year employee as a servant of the people of Lowndes County. At the end of December, Young will have completed one of the longest ever tenure’s of the local sheriff’s department when his retirement begins. Young served under four different sheriff’s and served with countless men and women he says he’ll never forget. Two such colleagues are still with the department in Billy Wood and Bobby Grimes.
Hired as a dispatcher by the late Mike Mordecai during the Louis Harper administration (he said that several joked that after Mordecai hired Joe, they never let Mordecai hire anyone ever again. RW), Investigator Young has seen it all. During his early years in the mid-80’s working patrol, Young can recall getting called to Mack Banks Western Supper Club in Crawford on occasion. The popular private club became a fav of Mississippi State college kids back in those days. The 78 year-old Banks, who still performs till this day (though the Western Club burned down in the early 90’s), had written a song about the sheriff’s department called, “Lowndes County Police!” Young feels sure that he was as much a part of the reason Banks wrote that song as anyone was. “There was a time, back in the 1980’s, that it seemed about half of Lowndes County drivers had suspended drivers license because of DUI’s,” Young speculated Tuesday. (Writers note: Back in those days, Lowndes County, Columbus in particular, was a Mecca for live entertainment…a destination for West Alabama people living in dry counties and many central and north Mississippi surrounding counties that were equally dry. On any given night you’d likely find 8-10 live bands playing at various joints across the county and probably as many as 15 or more on the weekend. A place to ‘drink’ wasn’t hard to find. RW)
Young said that while Banks tried to operate The Western Club under the premise of it being a ‘private club’, he’d try to deter law enforcement from entering the establishment. “He’d lock the doors and try to keep us from coming in,” Young chuckled. “I remember when I was on patrol, Mike Mordecai (shift leader at the time) wanted me to stop by Mack’s and get a copy of the cassette tape that had ‘Lowndes County Police’ on it. Young said he asked Mordecai how much he thought the tape would cost and Mordecai replied, “Well, ol’ Mack probably won’t charge you anything for it, but here’s a $20 just in case he does charge you.” Young said he purchased the cassette from Banks and when he brought it to Mordecai, he was in for a shock. “Mike had a fit when he found out that Mack had charged $15 dollars for the cassette” Young laughed. “That was a lot of money for a cassette back in the 80’s!”
Young also got to serve with his longtime friend Robert ‘Uncle Bunky’ Williams while at the sheriff’s department. “Bunky…haha. He doesn’t like for me to tell this, but I was on his show (Funtime with Uncle Bunky) while I was in kindergarten. And who would have ever thought then that I would grow up and work with him later on in life?
“Whenever I tell people I was on Bunky’s show when I was in kindergarten, he’d always tell them that I was 15 when I was in kindergarten!” Young laughed. “There’ll never be another Bunky,” he added. (Contrary to what many believe, Bunky is not only still with us, but he is a weekly contributor to The Packet by way of his famous drawings and cartoons. Young said he was honored to have gotten to work with him. I’m sure that Bunky would concur with Young being honored to have worked with him! RW)
Young has fond memories of working with many colleagues during his tenure with the department. Some, he says, who are no longer with us. In addition to Mordecai, Young remembered Ernest Skipper, John Thomas and numerous others. His 30 years with the department could be unprecedented. As mentioned earlier, he served with four different sheriff’s. Starting with Harper (who served three terms), he also served under Ed Prescott (12 years), Butch Howard (12 years) and is currently serving under recently-elected Sheriff Mike Arledge.. “I’ve often joked that this is the only place I’ve ever seen where they’ll give you a job for four years and put you on 30-year retirement” he chuckled. “You have to be pretty flexible to last 30 years,” he added.
Young’s flexibility was needed because he ended up working in so many different divisions of the department. Several years ago, his love of music drove him to learn how to play guitar. His main tutor ended up being a very close friend…the late blues legend Willie King. He said that performing and entertaining has led to much less stressful years, lately. Karate was another stress-reliever for a time. But when he moved into narcotics, karate had to take a back seat because of the time consumed in working with the narcotics division. Playing music became his main stress-relief in his later years.
What will he do during retirement? “Continue to play music at The Junction, for one…and do whatever my wife wants me too…(chuckles). I might end up taking another job at some point. I’m gonna try not to do anything right now, though. Have a little catch-up time with Dot (his beloved wife, Dorothy! RW). And do some camping!”
A retirement party for Joe is being planned at the SO. Another retirement party will take place at The Junction as well. Young wanted to thank those he has worked with and served over the past 30 years. “I’d like to say thanks to all of my colleagues, the citizens who I served, the board’s of supervisors, the sheriff’s for allowing me to serve them that long in that capacity! It was my honor and pleasure!”0