By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Retirement couldn’t do it, but death finally forced Jimmy Jay, one of the most popular and respected police officers in Atmore history, to put away his badge after more than 40 years of patrolling the city and protecting its residents.
Jimmy, who walked a beat during the earliest days of his 33-year “first” career with Atmore Police Department, died August 27 at the age of 82 and was laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery last Friday, September 1.
He formally retired from APD in 2016, but never strayed far from the job he loved.
Jimmy continued to work for the city police department on a part-time basis, providing security or other services at high school football games, parades and other local events for nearly 10 more years before death claimed him. Jimmy could also be seen — in uniform and badge — over the last several years at a local convenience store, where he chatted with customers while serving as the store’s de facto security officer.
“Lt. Jimmy Jay was one of the finest men on the planet,” said APD Chief Chuck Brooks, one of six chiefs under whom Jimmy worked. “He was a true public servant. He loved helping people.”
The former policeman, a native of Monroe County, never had to fire — or even pull — his service weapon during his three-plus decades. Instead, he gained a reputation for using his communications skills as a primary means of diffusing situations that seemed headed for uglier outcomes.
When he became an unemployed bricklayer and joined the city force in 1983, he didn’t have a patrol car. Therefore, he was assigned “alley man” duties, walking sidewalks and the darkened pathways between business buildings, shaking their doors and checking their windows to make sure nothing was amiss.
In later years, when he would feel nostalgic, he would pull his patrol car over to the curb, get out and resume his security checks.
Jimmy told reporters in 2016 that his family convinced him to retire so that he could spend more time with them. He said he would have liked to go on sharing interaction with the city’s residents.
“I know everybody, everybody knows me,” he told a Mobile television station. “We all get along good. That’s what I’ll miss the most. It was the hardest decision to make. Nothing stands out but my age. I still love it but it’s time to slow down a little.”
Those who knew him apparently felt the same way about the late officer.
“There was a good turnout at his (Thursday, August 31) visitation, with family, friends and some law enforcement officers,” said Sandy Everette of Johnson-Quimby Funeral Home, which handled Jimmy’s final arrangements. “But the day of his service, law enforcement really stepped up. They were all over the place.”
Jimmy’s motto or philosophy (“If you can’t help people, don’t hurt them.”) probably did as much as anything to endear him to most everyone he met.
Samantha Bennett, currently an administrative assistant with the police department but a dispatcher when she first met Jimmy, said the officer was a unique individual who took the time to show her the ropes.
“He was right there for me whenever I needed him,” Samantha said. “He was a gentle giant.”