Former chief dies at 60

Published 12:09 am Thursday, November 24, 2011

Vidalia — Even after getting head butted in the face by a suspect getting arrest, Billy Hammers didn’t curse.

“When the guy hit him he almost fell backward and just kept saying ‘You son of a… You son of a…’ and I was standing there expecting to hear him curse, but then he finally just said ‘You son of a mule,’” said Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis. “Why was that so important to me? Just because I’ve known Billy for 30 years and not one time did I hear him curse.”

Hammers, 60, died Wednesday from cardiac arrest.

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Hammers served as Vidalia Police chief for 10 years before losing an election in 2008 to Ronnie “Tapper” Hendricks.

Lewis started just two days after Hammers at the Vidalia Police Department and said Hammers never let him forget that.

“We had our ups and downs with each other about work, but he would always sit down eye to eye with me and explain why he did something,” Lewis said. “He was a true friend to me.”

Vidalia resident Joe Swoveland met Hammers in 1995 while Swoveland was working at a Fruit of the Loom plant.

Swoveland was considering retiring — until Hammers was elected as police chief and changed his mind.

“He told me that they were going to put a school officer in the Vidalia school and that he needed someone to trust and he wanted me to help him get it started,” Swoveland said. “I told him I would try it for a year, but I ended up staying for 10 years.”

Swoveland said Hammers set a good example for the entire community.

“He was just a good honest man,” Swoveland said. “He was really down to earth and easy to get along with.”

Concorida Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell said Hammers was a compassionate person and that’s a necessary trait in the line of work the men shared.

“Billy was a hard worker, a good person and a compassionate person,” Maxwell said. “He was easy to work with, and I enjoyed working with him.”

Visitation will be Sunday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Young’s Funeral Home in Vidalia.