Memorial honors Clay's fallen officer

A stretch of Highway 50 between McGee Creek just east of West Point and just west of Lone Oak on the west side of the city has been named in B. Cowart honor by the Legislature as part of an effort to recognize the 266 officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in the state.B. Cowart
By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

The only law enforcement to die in the line of duty in Clay County is honored with a highway memorial in time for Police Memorial Week.

B. Cowart, an investigator with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, died of a heart attack on Aug. 6, 1965, three days before his 54th birthday. A stretch of Highway 50 between McGee Creek just east of West Point and just west of Lone Oak on the west side of the city has been named in his honor by the Legislature as part of an effort to recognize the 266 officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in the state.

The state Department of Transportation erected the sign denoting the highway last week in time for Police Memorial Week this week.

According to his memorial site, Cowart was assisting West Point Police who had been working with other agencies handling a civil rights march at Mississippi State University. Some of the protesters who had been arrested were brought to the Clay County Jail.

At about 11:4 a.m., Cowart was helping search and process those arrested when one of the students who had been arrested for blocking a sidewalk "suddenly spun around, grabbed Investigator Cowart and pushed him to the ground." Cowart apparently was trying to get a button the student was wearing.

Cowart suffered a heart attack and later died at a local hospital.

The student was charged with manslaughter, but the charges later were dropped.

He'd worked with the department for 19 years.

He is buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Starkville.

Cowart was one of the earliest officers from the region to die in the line of duty. Others include:

-- State Conservation Officer Ted Sloan, killed Jan. 1, 1967, in Lowndes County when he attempted to arrest a man for hunting squirrels out of season. Later that year, a Lowndes County Grand Jury declined to indict the man or his 16-year-old son;

-- Okolona Town Marshal Sam Watson was shot to death Feb. 22, 1974, as he entered the rear door of the Okolona Police Department. The 61-year-old had worked for the department for 27 years and had been called back to the station when he was shot by the Justice of the peace, who was charged with murder;

-- Chickasaw County Deputy Sheriff Robert L. Kirby died Dec. 1, 2981 when he was shot by a man he was trying to arrest for assaulting his wife. He man was charged with murder. The 25-year-old Kirby had been with the Sheriff's Department two years;

-- State Trooper Tommie Earl Owens died July 28, 1989, when his patrol car was struck by a freight train in Lowndes County shortly after he had reported for duty. The 30-year-old had been a trooper for two years. A section of Highway 12 in Lowndes County has been named in his honor;

-- Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics officer Robert Henry McLeod died Sept. 23, 1989, in a one-vehicle accident on Highway 25 in Oktibbeha County. The 24-year-old, who'd been with the agency for 11 months, was returning home to Columbus after working late in Winston County when he crashed;

-- Aberdeen Police Officer Eric King Wilson was fatally shot March 17, 1991, as he sat in an unmarked car outside his aunt's home in Aberdeen not far from the police chief's residence. Investigators think he new his killer. No one ever has been charged. Wilson was 33-years-old;

-- French Camp Police Chief Anthony Dwight Lucas was shot to death Feb. 4, 2005, while assisting Choctaw County Sheriff's deputies and Ackerman police on a traffic stop of four teenagers in Weir following a chase. As Lucas walked toward a house, one of the 16-year-olds walked out and shot him with a shotgun. The teen is serving life in prison for capital murder. The 32-year-old Lucas had been part-time police chief for two years and had been a full-time probation and parole officer with the state Department of Corrections for seven years;

-- Eupora Police Corp. Keith Crenshaw died Oct. 23, 2013 when he was struck by a car that had led officers on a chase across three counties. He put down spike strips on eastbound Highway 82 as the chase came through Eupora when the car veered into the median, striking the 52-year-old, 10-year veteran and crashing, killing two of the three suspects. The surviving suspect is serving 40 years in prison.

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