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Those who keep us safe: Tommy Curtis Jr.

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Tommy Curtis Jr. (Photo courtesy Mr. Curtis)

Making a difference in young people’s lives is something Tommy Curtis Jr. strives to do each and every day.

Curtis has worn many hats and held dozens of titles in his 15 years in law enforcement, but the one he cherishes the most is his current job leading the Juvenile Division for the Vicksburg Police Department.

Curtis lives life by a special motto.

“Once somebody gives to you, you give to somebody else,” he said.

“I’m passionate about youth because I was a youth at one time,” Curtis added, “and I had people that came along that helped me. When you are a youth, you always remember that one person that helped you and inspired you.”

That person in Curtis’ life was Officer Randy Naylor. Naylor is no stranger to Vicksburg and served on the Vicksburg Police Department for over 20 years. He passed away of cancer in 2013, but his legacy lives on with today’s law enforcement personnel, like Curtis.

“He always was around talking to us,” Curtis said. “What he taught me carried over to me being an adult, and he showed me officers can be great people that can help with an issue and also help you reach your goals.”

Under Naylor’s leadership, the Street Ball Program was born. This program is designed to keep young people off the streets and give them a sense of pride and structure. Now, Curtis has taken over as coordinator of the program.

“They come in one way and learn conflict resolution,” Curtis said. “We talk to them and bridge the gap between officers and kids by being hands on.”

Curtis said the officers become friends and mentors to the program participants.

“The officers come in with street clothes on and look just like them,” Curtis said.

Curtis does not do the program for any rewards, but he did say it feels good seeing successes.

“You see people who were in the program all grown up and say, ‘Hey officer Curtis. I remember you. I’m doing good now,’ and it just makes me smile knowing this program makes a difference,” he said.

Curtis has had many memorable moments, accomplishments and awards over his 15-year career including Top Cop in 2016 and Officer of the Year in 2011. He was also recognized by Delbert Hosemann, then Secretary of State, for a Behind the Badge spotlight in 2016, but he says he owes his success to his family.

“My family is me,” he said.

The 40-year-old has been married for 17 years and has three children. Outside of law enforcement, Curtis has created an empire of businesses he likes to call Curtis Enterprise.

Curtis is the owner of All Around Gym located in the Vicksburg Mall. His wife, Rebecca, owns a successful tax-preparing company. The couple’s three children have also been quite the entrepreneurs. His oldest son, Tommy III, is a music producer. Curtis’ middle son, Anthony, is a YouTube sensation with over 30,000 subscribers. The youngest child, Dejonae, owns a business called Dee Dee’s Baby Cakes also located in the Vicksburg Mall.

“They get a great example from myself and my wife,” Curtis said. “ I’m amazed at all my kids do.”

Curtis said he tries every day to exemplify the same leadership traits with youth on the job as he does with his children.

“I try to be an officer that is full of joy,” he said. “The kids I serve know I’m stern, but I build a rapport with them first,” Curtis said.

Curtis believes when you help children at any age they are like a sponge. “They take what you taught them, and they take it with them forever,” he said.

Curtis encourages everyone to give back.

“I feel like if you’re gonna give back, you need to give back to your young people because that’s our future,” he said.

Curtis said most people see him as just a police officer on the outside, but on the inside he sees himself as a leader and mentor to children.

“I love this field because of the different ways you can reach people,” he said.

People

Pastor Reginald Harris Celebrates 17 years at Bright Morning Star Church

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Photo by Thomas Parker

Vicksburg Daily News was on hand to celebrate a special day with Pastor Reginald Harris and his family.

Sunday, the congregation at Bright Morning Star Church honored Pastor Harris for 17 years of leading the church.

Churchgoers decorated their vehicles and took the opportunity to join in the drive-by celebration and show their appreciation to the Pastor and his family.

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People

Those who keep us safe: Sam Winchester

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Photo by David Day

For 30 years and counting, Samuel K. Winchester has been a public servant.

In 1990, prior to a career in law enforcement, Winchester enlisted in the United States Military.

“I’ve always been involved in that line of work,” he said. “I am a veteran. I was in the United States Army, so that work really centered around a career in law enforcement after that.”

After the army, he got his first start in law enforcement by working at Alcorn State University. After a brief stint with the college, he started at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department in 2000.

Winchester grew up in a tiny town in Jefferson County, northeast of Natchez, called Rodney, Miss.

His upbringing resulted in him seeing first hand what it means to be a public servant.

“The person I looked up to was my father,” Winchester said. “Ironically, we both mirrored each other’s occupations. He was in the military and also he worked at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department.”

Winchester saw that the Warren County Sheriff’s Department was hiring and he was hired in 2004.

With almost two decades with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, Winchester wears many hats.

Winchester has worked his way up the ranks and in 2006 was named detective for the Criminal Investigation Division. He also is a hostage crisis negotiator for the department. Winchester is also called on to investigate county fires as a county fire investigator. Lastly, one of the most notable positions Winchester serves is as the primary driving instructor at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officer Training Academy for the State of Mississippi located in Pearl.

With all these responsibilities, Winchester is a mild mannered man who enjoys being there for his community.

“My favorite part of serving on the sheriff’s department is that I get to help people,” Winchester said. “In today’s society, our job is centered around the public, so we always want the public to know we are available to them and it’s very crucial that we help everybody. If you can just help one person and touch one person’s life you can consider that a successful day.”

The people of Warren County are not the only people who recognize Winchester’s hard work. In 2017, he was recognized by Hon. Bennie G. Thompson in the House of Representatives by a Congressional Record for his service.

In the record, Thompson wrote, “I ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing, Det. Sam Winchester for his hard work, dedication and a strong desire to serve his country and community.”

After all of this success in his career, Winchester was asked to define a community hero.

“When you serve the public you dont put alot of thought into it being an individual community hero because it has so many moving parts to it,” he said. “Its a team effort. It’s not an individual effort. I look at everyone who serves the public and in law enforcement as a hero. Everyone who wakes up and puts on the uniform and risk their life to save someone else’s life or touch someone else’s life, that’s a hero.”

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Education

Mississippi native elected as Harvard student body president

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(photo courtesy Noah Harris)

A Mississippi high school graduate has been elected as Harvard University’s student body president.

Noah Harris, a 2018 graduate of Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is the first African American to serve in the role at prestigious Harvard University in Massachusetts.

“I’m really grateful that the student body is entrusting me with such a historic and unprecedented moment,” Harris told WDAM. “To make the right moves and to really bring their voices to the forefront. I just never expected that I would be in a position to run for this.”

Harris is a junior and a political science major at Harvard. He served as treasurer on the finance committee in his first two years. His vice president and running mate is neuroscience major Jenny Gan. Both plan on making a difference at the university.

Harris and Gan will be sworn in Dec. 6.

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