UPDATE: Vidalia police, community mourn after longtime officer killed in accident off-duty
Published 10:52 am Tuesday, May 30, 2023
VIDALIA, La. — A “man’s man” who was honest, kind and always ready to share a lighthearted joke is how many remember Vidalia Police Department’s eldest officer Lt. Huston “Smokey” White, who died in an accident at home on Monday while off duty.
White celebrated his 80th birthday in October 2022 and was still actively working at Vidalia Police Department. He became a police officer late in life after retiring as a lineman for Entergy.
VPD’s eldest officer, White entered the Alexandria Police Academy in 2008 at the age of 66 and soon became one of the oldest officers on record to complete the academy.
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This is no small feat, as the Alexandria Academy is known for its rigorous physical training, said Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill, adding that White was in great shape and had no trouble keeping up with younger officers.
“They had trouble keeping up with him,” Merrill said. “I would’ve traded four or five younger officers for four or five of him. Everybody looked up to him. He was one of the good ones, for sure. A great man who cared about his community and his department. It’s a sad time for Vidalia PD.”
VPD shared a photo of a badge with a black and blue ribbon around it on its social media page Monday, symbolizing the loss.
Other officers and people in the community quickly flooded the comments with words of sorrow, remembrance and encouragement.
White’s daughter shared what her father would say in times of heartache, “Hang in there, Cuz”.
White called everyone “Cuz,” Merrill said.
“He had a great life and was in good health,” he said. “We hate for something like this to happen. He was full of life. Everybody loved him. You didn’t have to worry about what he was thinking because he would tell you. He was a man’s man. If I had to pick someone to be with me on a call, it would be him.”
Until last year, White worked in the streets as a patrol officer when Merrill promoted him to investigator.
“He would work burglaries, murders, theft, home invasions and things like that,” Merrill said. “It was a little bit slower paced and I had to talk him into doing it.”
Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said White was also well-known and loved by the community.
“Smokey was a beloved person in Vidalia,” Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said. “He was such a sweet man and such a good man and was always kind and friendly. If you knew him, you loved him. On a day like today, Memorial Day, when we think of all our fallen heroes who worked to keep the freedoms we have, he did the same. He’s a hero in my eye. … Our hearts are heavy. He was a great asset.”
Captain Craig Godbold of VPD said White was unique as an officer and as an individual.
“You didn’t have to guess what his thoughts were because he would tell you what he was thinking and he didn’t sugarcoat it,” Godbold said. “He was honest in everything he did. He was a good policeman and he could work circles around any young officer. He passed the police academy at 66, and it was difficult. That includes PT and running every day. He was a good man and a good friend, and we’re going to miss him. … He’d do anything for you. This one is going to hurt for a while.”