Law enforcement honors Panola County’s first Black chief deputy after he dies from COVID-19

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BATESVILLE, Miss. — Police cruisers from agencies all across North Mississippi lit up their lights as they drove in a procession through Batesville Thursday afternoon in order to honor a local legend.

James Rudd was the first African-American Chief Deputy of the Panola County Sheriff’s Office. He passed away Monday at the age of 86 after contracting COVID-19.

“He was paving the way for myself and others like me, because he was the first,” said Rudd’s daughter Maryetta, who is now a district director for the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

At the time of Rudd’s death, he was retired after more than three decades in law enforcement. When he joined the sheriff’s office in the 1970s, his brother says it was a big deal.

“I never would have thought I would see Black president, but it happened. But in Panola County, it wasn’t thought of in Panola County,” said Charles Rudd.

Maryetta Rudd recalls their family receiving death threats early on in her father’s career, but said adversity only made him stronger.

“He taught me how to be strong. He taught me how to face adversity and to hold my head up,” she said.

Today, hundreds of people held their heads up, proud of Rudd’s contributions to Panola County and the entire law enforcement community.

“He left this Earth as a giant. His mark will forever be in Panola County,” Maryetta Rudd said.

James Rudd will be buried Friday at 1 p.m. at Mount Gillion Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery.

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