Sheriff Brown’s death mourned by colleagues

Published 11:35 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — Ronny Brown wasn’t just a boss. He wasn’t a just a sheriff. And he certainly wasn’t just a husband.

Brown was a friend.

And anyone who knew him well would tell you so.

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“With me, he was as much my friend as he was my boss,” Adams County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chuck Latham said. “He’s the best boss I’ve ever worked with in my entire life.”

Latham has worked at the ACSO for 26 years under three sheriffs, and to him Brown was special.

“He had something that no other sheriff I’ve seen had. He had the ability to make contact with people. He worked with people, not against people.”

Brown, 60, was found dead early Wednesday morning at his house.

Coroner James Lee said the cause of death was a massive heart attack that occurred some time late Tuesday night, likely killing Brown instantly.

Circuit Court Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson received the news via a 3 a.m. phone call.

“I’m still in shock,” he said later Wednesday. “I had lunch with him yesterday. He was in my court yesterday afternoon. I’ve known him for 30 years, and I’ve lost a good friend.”

Brown was elected Adams County Sheriff in 2003. He was re-elected in 2007.

Prior to his work as sheriff, Brown was a Vidalia alderman and worked 20 years in the state Department of Corrections. He served as community corrections associate director, overseeing a 10-county area in Southwest Mississippi and working out of six offices with five different circuit judges, three district attorneys, three sheriff departments and 25 employees.

“I knew Ronny when he was a probation officer and I was an attorney,” Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders said. “He was a community person. He always strived to be fair.”

During his five years as sheriff, Brown implemented many new programs and strengthened some existing ones, county supervisors Henry Watts and Darryl Grennell said. Among those projects was courthouse security.

At a time when the safety of judges and court officials was being questioned, Brown stepped up to the plate, Grennell said.

The sheriff, with help from Latham, also organized and nurtured several Neighborhood Watch groups in the county, Watts said.

But more than the projects Brown leaves behind, it will be the way he did things that lives on in memories, Watts said.

“He’s always been calm and always been pleasant,” Watts said. “He was very level headed.”

Angie Brown found her husband of 13 years on the kitchen floor near his laptop when she came home from visiting another family member in the hospital.

Wednesday night, Angie’s memories weren’t of a boss or a sheriff.

“He was my lifesaver,” she said. “He understood everything about me and loved me anyway.

“He loved his kids and his grandkids more than anything. He couldn’t wait for them to come. He was an exceptional stepfather.”

Ronny Brown was a father to son, Kevin of Hattiesburg, and daughter, Courtney Feltus of Natchez. He was stepfather to Angie’s son Alan. And he was pawpaw to three little girls.

His funeral will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Parkway Baptist Church.

“Ever since I met Ronny Brown, life with him has been an adventure,” Angie said. “I just jumped on and enjoyed the ride. And, man, what a ride.

“As a husband, he was my best friend. The best man I ever knew.”