‘She touched a lot of hearts,’ Former Alcorn State police chief dies in pedestrian-car accident

Published 2:23 pm Wednesday, June 22, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Bernadette Wilson, 64, who was formerly the chief of police at Alcorn State University in Lorman, was struck by a car while walking and killed this morning on Cannonsburg Road in Jefferson County.

Jefferson County Sheriff James Bailey said the accident happened before daybreak. The driver that struck her called to report the accident at 5:39 a.m., Bailey said, adding those involved stayed at the scene until authorities arrived.

“There were two vehicles coming. The first young lady stated she didn’t see her at first. When she did she slammed on brakes. There was another vehicle behind her and he also slammed on brakes and swerved to avoid hitting the back of the first vehicle and when he swerved, he hit (Wilson) on the highway.”

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Bailey said she was walking about 200 yards away from her house where the accident happened. No one has been charged with a crime, he said.

He added he worked with Wilson at Alcorn for about eight years. At the time, she was the police chief and he was a sergeant.

“She was a great person,” he said. “She believed in what she believed in and she believed in law enforcement. She treated everyone fairly and was a great leader in her profession. She is going to be missed by a lot of people. She touched a lot of hearts—a lot of hearts.”

AJ Carpenter, who was Alcorn’s police chief before Wilson, said he knew her and worked with her for at least 25 years during his police chief tenure. Carpenter described her as “nice, outspoken and a good worker.”  He added, “You wouldn’t be able to find anyone better to work with.”

“She was my assistant and I was the chief at the time,” he said. “She was a good employee and a dependable person. This was a real tragedy.”

Her life partner Robert Pernell and she were both in Natchez celebrating Juneteenth last weekend, said Sarah Sookraj, community programs manager with Visit Natchez.

They shared a lovely evening together at the Soul Food Fusion Festival, Sookraj added.

“They came 30 minutes after the event started and they spoke to us for a while,” she said. “They mingled, sampled the food and they stayed for the entire thing and went to the after-party at Locust Alley. I got to hang out with them a bit. Pernell is close with Roscoe and our team and we’ve seen each other and crossed paths often. She was a sweet lady, respectable and loving and I know Pernell loved her dearly. It’s very sad. She was here one day and gone the next.”

Pernell serves as chairman of the U.S. Colored Troops monument committee and past chairman of the Proud to Take a Stand monument committee.

“He thought the world of her,” said Roscoe Barnes, Cultural Heritage Tourism Manager at Visit Natchez. Barnes recalled seeing them at the first U.S. Colored Troops Monument meeting and her volunteering to help in the monument’s early planning stages.

“That was my first time meeting her,” he said. “Both of them were community-minded and believed in community service.”

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said he and his wife Marla consider Wilson and Pernell to be close friends and were heartbroken at the news of her passing.

“She was someone full of joy, full of love and full of wisdom,” he said. “She has been chief of security for many years at Alcorn and was highly regarded. Personally, she has become such a loving friend to Marla and me. Our hearts go out to Robert Pernell and to Bernadette’s two lovely daughters.”