No greater love: Officer White’s life honored by governor, mayor, chief and pastor
“Evil still walks among us in this world, daily,” Gov. Phil Bryant said at Easthaven Baptist Church Wednesday morning. He spoke to the hundreds of officers, as well as friends and family, who filled the pews at the funeral service for Brookhaven police officer James Kevin White. “Those of you who wear the badge still do battle with that evil on a daily basis.”
Bryant, who said he was sorry he did not know White personally because he was the kind of man you wanted to be close to, presented White’s family with a posthumous award for the slain officer. Bryant awarded the Mississippi Medal of Valor based on White’s service in the National Guard. He was awarded a Purple Heart during his service in Iraq as an 18-year-old.
White, 35, was killed in the line of duty Saturday while responding to a call of “shots fired” on North Sixth Street. Cpl. Zach Moak, 31, was also killed.
Bryant’s comments followed those of Rev. Mike McKee, White’s sister Lisa White, Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox and Police Chief Kenneth Collins.
“James was sent from heaven to earth to be a law enforcement officer. That was his calling,” Collins said. “James, at 4:47 a.m. that morning, walked into the darkness with no fear because God was with him. He passed doing what he was born to do when God created him.”
The chief said the tears that would be shed for White might be like the Mighty Mississippi overflowing its banks, but they would just be an echo of the tears God shed for mankind when his son laid down his life for everyone.
“There’s no greater love in this world than to lay your life down for your fellow men. No greater love in the world,” Collins said.
Addressing White’s sons, James Lee and J.C., Collins said that while their father was making his way to heaven, an army — formed from law enforcement officers from all over the world — was making its way here to honor him. He told them to take courage and hope from the number of people who would always be available for them.
“You will never be alone,” he said. “Y’all don’t have to worry. We’ll be here for y’all.”
McKee, a personal friend of the White family, first met the fallen officer in 2000. He told how he’d attended seminary with White’s father, Darryl. He joked that White loved to talk more than he himself did, and could talk the creosote off a creosote-coated phone pole.
“He always called me ‘Mister Mike,’ with an emphasis on the ‘Mister’ because he respected people,” McKee said. “And he enjoyed serving people.”
Addressing other law enforcement officers, the pastor said his heart went out to them because they knew what the job of serving others in that capacity is like. He thanked them for their dedication to their jobs and to the camaraderie they share, to do what the two simple phrases associated with law officers say — “to protect” and “to serve.”
“That’s what Kevin did. He lived an honorable life, but his life meant something to me,” said the minister. “I knew I could call him at any time. I could say, ‘Kevin, I need you,’ and he’d be at my office or on my front porch just a few minutes later.”
McKee told those present that his heart hurt for them today, but also for himself. He stressed that White took very seriously the call to run into the fight, to the defense of others. As much as he loved serving others, McKee said he honestly believed White would have had it no other way.
“In the process of defending his town, he gave his life. My heart hurts,” McKee said, his voice cracking with emotion. “My heart hurts, but I know. I know one day I shall see him again. I know.”
Because Jesus promised believers would see each other again in heaven, McKee said, and White had trusted Jesus as savior.
“Saturday morning, in the early morning hours, he went home to the place that Jesus had prepared for him. And I can take great comfort in that,” he said. “And I hope you can, too.”
White’s sister, Lisa, shared a poem entitled “The Dash,” loved by her brother, whom she described as her hero.
The poem was previously shared by White himself on Facebook, along with a wish that his sons, family and friends would be able to remember him “as someone who was selfless, who put others before himself.”
McKee read a social media post from an Army medic who talked about White’s selflessness and bravery in Iraq as an 18-year-old. The medic’s account said White’s actions reminded him of the Bible verse that reads, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Cox called White “a brave man, a courageous man, a man who knew that God called him to serve and protect the residents of his community and everyone he came in contact with.”
“We stand united with the family of Officer White and the Brookhaven Police Department,” Cox said. “And we’ll get through this together, as only a family can.”
He read scripture about fighting the good fight, finishing the race and keeping the faith.
“Officer White will be forever remembered for finishing his race well,” Cox said.
After Vince Gill’s high tenor voice and acoustic guitar notes offered “Go Rest High on that Mountain,” McKee shared words of encouragement from Psalm 23. He told the congregation they could have peace, comfort and rest because of the hope that rests in God’s presence and protection — the hope he was sure White knew and the rest that he was certainly experiencing with Jesus now.
McKee said, “I don’t know what him and Jesus are talking about today, but I know they are talking.”
After a final prayer, an officer from MHP presented a folded U.S. flag to White’s sister and saluted the family. The crowd exited quietly as the pianist played songs about grace, and the flag-draped casket was rolled to the waiting hearse.
White was buried at Holly Springs Baptist Church.