Located off U.S. 231 near Ashville behind the county shop, is a multi-purpose facility for law enforcement training for different agencies to use. There is a building to hold classes and a range for firearm training.
St. Clair County Commissioner Jeff Brown, son of Lewis Brown, thanked everyone involved in this special day.
“It is an honor and I know my daddy would be proud,” Brown said as he fought back the tears.
Brown introduced his granddaughter, Stephanie Whisenant, who sang “He Walked On Water” by Randy Travis. She too was overcome with emotion and unable to finish the song as she cried at the podium hugged up in her grandfather’s arms.
Surles also fought back tears as he shared with those gathered how he lost his dad in 1980.
“I would have appreciated it had he been here today,” Surles said. “He would have been proud too. I lost him to cancer and it was tough. We watched him go away from here, and it was almost like a relief with the condition he was in and because he is in a far better place. This is an important day for me and my family, and my mother is here today.”
Surles said Lewis Brown sort of took his dad’s place and considers the Browns to be part of his family.
“He hired me at a time when I really wanted to get into law enforcement,” Surles said. “Clemons Roe actually hired me, and Lewis came along and won the election and took me under his wing. I knew it would happen, because I knew him years before I got into law enforcement. He took a bunch of us under his wings, and he was like a dad to me. He always wanted your opinion on things. He always wanted you to share your thoughts. He may not agree with you, but he did want your opinion. There were many times I went to him, shut the door to his office and discussed work problems and personal problems. He was just the type person you could go to and talk to. He was a fine man, and it was an honor for me to work for him and with him.”
Surles said he could still see Brown on the day they asked for the range.
“We talked about it and needed a place to shoot,” Surles said. “The County Commission had this piece of land graded off, and every time we qualified, it would come a flood. It was muddy and the County Commission brought us some gravel out here. We wallowed in that for a long time. With the help of the commission, we got our building and we built sidewalks and put down sod. We got what you see today, and we are proud of it. But it all started with Lewis Brown. I will forever thank him for it because to me, he is the man who should get the credit.”
Brown spent a total of 28 years in the Sheriff’s Department as deputy sheriff, chief deputy and the last 12 years as sheriff, 1983-1995.
Surles took over as sheriff in 1999 and stated they adopted a slogan — “We will make a difference together.”
“That togetherness meant that departments would come together as a whole,” Surles said. “This Sheriff’s Department belongs to the people. It does not belong to me. It has been an honor and privilege to serve you the past 13 years.”
“We have a great community because of a lot of people,” St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said. “But I can’t think of any particular group that makes our community great any more than the law enforcement element in our community. They work hard and work diligently and work with heart. That has been true for many, many years. Today, we stand here to dedicate the facilities here to a couple of those people. Down through the years, there has been a foundation laid for the direction we go here in being fair, honest and diligent in our law enforcement efforts.”
Batemon said the recent tornadoes really showed what folks are made out of who are in this business.
“Our deputies and our policemen from all over the county responded,” Batemon said. “It didn’t matter what time, or what was going on. They were right there to do what they were called to do. And that is to protect and serve the citizens they work for. I can’t think of a better way to honor them than to honor those people who have led them to this spot. Not any two people have done that any more so than Terry Surles and Lewis Brown.”
St. Clair County Probate Judge Mike Bowling said he considered Lewis Brown and Terry Surles two great friends of his.
“I don’t know of any two people more deserving of this,” Bowling said.
Contact Gary Hanner at email@example.com.