Blackwell, Edwards families grieve as cousins are laid to rest
Many tears fell as the family members of Austin Edwards and Jordan Blackwell passed by the boys’ matching blue caskets for one last goodbye.
Well over 1,000 people gathered at the Alexander Jr. High auditorium Saturday to support the families of the victims, cousins who were shot to death May 28 along with five other members of their extended family and a Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy. About 750 filled the seats and several hundred more stood along the walls, in the lobby and on the steps on the other side of the glass side door.
The rain poured outside as many heavy hearts celebrated the lives of these two young men. Rev. Kendall Poole opened with a scripture reading from the Old Testament in the Book of Isaiah. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint,” quoted Poole as several people cried out.
Rev. Charles Caston continued after Poole with a reading from the New Testament. Families and friends in the front row comforted each other as the ceremony went on. Songs were performed by Kimberly Lilly, Rev. Robert McCall Jr, Linda Lilly and Eugene Edwards.
Several tributes were offered in honor of Edwards, a sixth grader at Lipsey Middle School, and Blackwell, a senior linebacker at Brookhaven High School.
“I took Austin under my wing,” said David Robinson, a mentor and aftercare provider, as he addressed the emotional crowd. “Any time he got into trouble, his mother would tell him to come to me. He would have that guilty look on his face, knowing he did something wrong. I’m going to miss him. We have to stand for one another and one in Christ.”
Trace Clopton, who shared time on the field with Blackwell on the Ole Brook team, recalled the first time he met the young man.
“I remember moving to Brookhaven. I came from a small school and was really nervous and Jordan was the first person I met. He teased me about my haircut,” Clopton said, laughing. “Jordan didn’t take it easy on me because he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He was a friend but I’m proud to say he was my brother, too. He believed in me.”
“Austin had a smile that would bright up a room,” said Douglas Edwards, a family member of the young boy. “Austin and Jordan, y’all will be missed.”
As tributes poured out, families hugged and comforted each other and grabbed for tissues ushers passed down the aisles.
Blackwell’s grandmother, Barbara Buie, said he loved his family.
“He always picked up his phone and would always call me and tell me he loved me,” she said.
Jerrold Willis addressed the crowd and said he taught both students.
“Jordan would always be playing sports, it didn’t matter what the weather was like outside and one thing about Jordan, you knew his team was going to win,” he said. “Austin will be truly missed. I still keep one of his school projects in my office.”
BHS head football coach Tommy Clopton finished off the tribute part of the ceremony with stories about Blackwell.
“One thing Jordan would say if he were here today is, ‘Coach, did you see how many people were here?” He smiled as the crowd laughed. “God puts people in your life for you to be a blessing to them or for them to be a blessing to you. Jordan was a blessing to me. One thing I will always remember is talking to Jordan outside of the field house and just saying, “I love you Jordan’ and he would always say back, ‘I love you, too, coach.”
Blackwell had recently received an offer from Jackson State University to play football and the school’s head Coach, Tony Hughes, wrote a letter to Clopton for him to read at the service.
“Jordan Blackwell will always have a home here at Jackson State,” Clopton read from Hughes’ letter.
As the funeral service came to an end, Blackwell’s grandfather, Rev. Eugene Edwards, addressed the crowd, reassuring everyone of the thanks and support the families have received throughout this tragic event.
“I call them my boys,” said Blackwell. “I baptized them boys and I know they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I was blessed to know these children their whole lives.”
Funeral services for Ferral and Sheila Burage will be Sunday, 2 p.m., at Alexander Jr. High.
Funeral services for Barbara Mitchell, Brenda May and Toccara May will be Monday, 2 p.m., at Alexander Jr. High. Visitation will be from 1 p.m. until time of the service at the school auditorium.