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The remarkable career of former VFD Capt. Lee Griffin

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Retired Capt. Lee Griffin (photo courtesy)

Lee Griffin started his career with the Vicksburg Fire Department  in 1974 shortly after a butane tank explosion in Vicksburg.

Griffin’s friend, Jimmy Gibbs, convinced him to take the firefighter exam where he scored an 85 and quickly began his career as one of six African Americans at the VFD.

Griffin had many roles over his 25 years at the fire department such as driver, rescue, and assistant chief.

“I enjoyed the job, and I got along with just about everyone,” Griffin said.

Griffin recalls the first fire he responded to at Wyatt’s Motel where two units burned down.

“I remembering it being so hot. but it was definitely a learning experience,” Griffin said.

By 1984, after serving 10 years on the fire department, Griffin was promoted to captain and became the first African American to serve in that role with the Vicksburg Fire Department.

“I felt proud, but it really didn’t make any difference to me, and it took me a while to get used to,” Griffin said.

Throughout his firefighting career, Griffin worked closely with Craig Danczyk, who is now the VFD fire chief. Danczyk continues to speak highly about Griffin although it’s been more than two decades since the two have worked together.

“Vicksburg Fire Department Captain Lee Griffin was a Vietnam veteran and came to serve his local community after service to our nation. He was a great teammate, and people enjoyed working with him,” Danczyk said. “He looked out for me during the early years of my career, and I appreciated that as a young firefighter. He was the captain that would back his crew, but also coach you if you need to improve.”

To this day, Griffin still speaks highly of Danczyk as well. “He is one of the best chiefs that Vicksburg ever had, and I am glad about everything he is doing,” Griffin said.

In 1998, Griffin, Danczyk and James Montgomery were in an accident while responding to a fire.

“I was with him on Sunday, Nov. 8, 1998, when he made his last response on Engine 7,” Danczyk said.  “While responding to a motor vehicle accident, our pumper lost control on the North Frontage Road and drove off a bridge. The fall was 51 feet, and it was a miracle any of us survived.”

The accident was something Griffin will never forget, and he remains grateful that he survived.

“I prayed to God that he would save us, and everything had crushed down on me,” Griffin said. “… We made it through the front windshield, and Craig was able to pull me out.”

“I was glad everyone was able to make it out alive. I suffered from a broken pelvis,” he added. “Montgomery lost an eye and Craig had a scar along his back.”

Griffin stayed with the VFD for one more year after the accident and retired in 1999. He went on to work in security for five years before retiring again.

Griffin spent 10 years in the Army before joining the fire department where he was assigned to Vietnam and then Germany.

The city of Vicksburg will always be grateful to Griffin for his hard work and efforts to help everyone in the community.

People

Josh Morgan wins the VDN Head Coach of the Year award

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VDN Head Coach of the Year Josh Morgan (photo by Ced Tillman)

Warren Central High School football coach Josh Morgan is the Vicksburg Daily News Head Coach of the Year.

Morgan played football at Warren Central in the late 1990s under his father Robert Morgan. He eventually committed to play football at Mississippi State University where he was a star safety and named to the All SEC team in 2001.

Morgan began coaching at the University of Memphis in 2004 as a graduate assistant before returning to Warren Central in 2006 to be the Vikings’ defensive coordinator.

In 2010, Morgan was named as the Vikings’ head coach after the retirement of Curtis Brewer.

Morgan struggled in his first two years as head coach. The team went 2-9 in 2010 and 1-10 in 2011. He broke through in 2012, when the Vikings their first playoff appearance under his leadership.

Morgan and the Vikings have made it to the playoffs each year since 2012, and this year marked his ninth consecutive season making it to the postseason.

The Vikings had a 9-3 record this season, and made it to the second round of the playoffs. They finished with the best record out of the four high schools in Vicksburg.

Morgan is the second coach to win the VDN Coach of the Year award after Vicksburg Junior High Coach Larry Carter Jr. won it last year.

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Business

Shandell Lewis opens an online home accessory store

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Shandell Lewis (photo courtesy S. Lewis)

Vicksburg native Shandell Lewis has started an online company where she sells various home and kitchen accessories, including luxury candles, room sprays and wax melts.

Lewis started organizing A Touch of Magnolia six months ago ad is excited about selling products that have helped her along the way. In college, she was diagnosed with severe anxiety but the aroma of certain scented candles helped bring her peace during difficult times. Now, Lewis sees A Touch of Magnolia becoming a great success as she spreads her love of aromatherapy to others.

“I want to go as far as God wants me to, and I want to put Mississippi on the map,” Lewis said.

A Touch of Magnolias is in the beginning stages of the business, and the store will have a soft opening online Nov 30.

Lewis is a 2011 graduate of Warren Central High School and graduated from Tougaloo College in 2016 with a degree in psychology. She received her master’s in school counseling from the University of Mississippi in 2018 and currently works as a high school counselor.

Lewis is grateful to her family for her success over the years.

“I come from a family of carpenters, business and home owners,” she said, “and we are all used to using our hands.”

To find out more about A Touch of Magnolia, visit the store on Facebook, Instragram or on its website.

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People

Claiborne County sheriff appointed the first female chief deputy in the county

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Standing is Sheriff Edward “Moose” Goods, who is pictured with his Chief Deputy, Christy Sykes (photo courtesy Port Gibson Sheriff's Department)

Story by Emma Crisler, editor, The Port Gibson Reveille

As 2020 arrived and both county and city boards met for the first time Jan. 6, not only were there new people sitting in every supervisors’ seat in the Matt Ross Building in Claiborne County, but changes had come to people working for the county as well.

In the sheriff’s department, not only was Sheriff Edward Goods the new sheriff but the chief deputy also had changed. The sheriff had selected Christy Sykes, the first woman chief deputy in Claiborne County.

Goods and Sykes had several connections including that they attended the Law Enforcement Academy together. They also worked together for 13 years at Alcorn State University.

As the Sheriff stated, he had observed her intelligence and noted the training courses she had passed, many of which would be useful if she were hired in his department.

“Chief Deputy Christy Sykes is the backbone of my department,” Goods said. “I’m the politician.” But most of all “I can trust her — a very important matter.

Chief Deputy Sykes

Sykes will receive her fourth degree from Alcorn State University later this month in athletic administration and compliance. Earlier, she earned degrees in criminal justice, workforce education, and an athletic management degree covering health, votec and technology.

She is the wife of Robert Sykes and the mother of three children, a daughter and two sons ranging in age from 6 to 16. Her parents are Harry and Shirley Williams (deceased).

Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department

The chief deputy said she interviewed for a job locally and put together a portfolio. She intended to keep her job at Alcorn and take on a job at the sheriff’s department, not knowing that Sheriff Goods was going to pick her as his chief deputy. As it turned out, she had also worked under former Sheriff Frank Davis when he worked as chief of police at Alcorn, and she knew some of the Claiborne County deputies from Alcorn.

Since she began her job, Sykes said they had dealt with some cases that were left over from the previous administration. There were also a few murders, petty crimes, cyberbullying and more domestic abuse that might be caused by the pandemic.

“But crime is down right now,” she said.

Sykes sees a few differences between her earlier law enforcement jobs and the one she has now.

At Alcorn, there were long hours to handle big events such as football game days, she said, but now, “I’m on call all the time.”

She added that people in law enforcement need to have their job in their hearts — some might call it complete dedication.

Fifteen deputies work full time or part time in the sheriff’s office with a “great auxillary,” she said.

During this first year, Sykes said they are trying to do things differently, especially on the technical side. They want to use computers to record everything instead of hand writing every action they take on a case.

She also mentioned bringing the 911 system up to date as an essential project.

Communication skills are also important.

“People will listen if you talk to them, and they will do what you ask of them,” she said. Keeping your ears open is also vital.

“Mrs. Sykes likes to be in the background,” Sheriff Goods said, but according to Sykes, “I can come out when needed.”

“I like to empower people, and I want to show this community that a female can do this job,” Goods said.

We wish Chief Deputy Christy Sykes much success in her important job working for Sheriff Goods and hope both will maintain their jobs keeping Claiborne County safe for a long time to come.


A version of this story appeared in The Port Gibson Reveille newspaper, and is reprinted here with permission.

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