Thursday, December 1, 2011
By SUE WATSON
Retiring Marshall County Supervisor Willie Flemon has been selected grand marshal for the Holly Jolly Christmas Parade this Saturday, Dec. 3, at 5 p.m. in downtown Holly Springs.
Flemon, who has spent 28 years in public service including 12 as constable and 16 as supervisor, said he agreed to serve as grand marshal in order to give back to the community he has had the privilege of serving all these years.
“Jonathan Moore and Greg Campbell kept working on me and I told them I would do it,” he said. “It is a pleasure to do it. I am grateful to do it.”
Moore said Flemon was asked to serve because of his dedicated public service of so many years.
“He just announced his retirement this year, and he is an outstanding community leader,” Moore said. “So, we wanted to honor him.”
Campbell, president of the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce, has one story to tell about Flemon that sums up the heart of the man.
“I was about 3 and riding with my grandmother when we ran out of gas,” he said. “I was scared to death. I had never been on the road and out of gas. Willie Flemon, who was driving a cop-looking car (constable’s vehicle) picked us up and took us to get gas. He’s a good man.”
Flemon is a man of humble beginnings and has remained humble to the end. Born in the Abbeville area and one of three children of a farming family, he arrived in Marshall County around 1940. Unable to complete his education due to farming chores he was assigned to do – breaking the fields – Flemon did the best he could with his education and worked to help sharecrop on the Knapp Place. His mother, Myrtle Flemon, cleaned houses in Holly Springs.
Flemon attended the Rosenwald School, but was kept out of school a lot to help prepare the fields for planting. Times were hard but he got all the education he could.
In 1952, Flemon went to work for Buford Furniture and he and his wife Ida Mae Lawson had two girls and a son. One of the baby girls, Beauty, died at birth. Flemon remained with Buford’s for 33 years as a furniture delivery man and hauler, starting in 1952 after a fire on the square wiped out Buford’s and several other businesses.
His wife, Ida Mae, left the children with sitters during the day and went to the cottom fields.
Flemon’s first bid for office came in 1983 when he ran for constable. It was during his 12 years delivering warrants and subpoenas for justice court around the county that he saw the county’s great need for better roads. Most were gravel roads at the time.
After he ran and won his first term as supervisor, Flemon made roads and infrastructure his main goal.
Flemon lived in The Meadows all his married life where he built a house for his bride. The house burned and they rebuilt. In 1985, Flemon’s wife passed away and he remained a widower.
As supervisor, he tried to improve the road conditions in his district and in the county and worked to bring more jobs to the area.
He said he learned much of what it took to be a supervisor by traveling to seminars for elected officials. On those trips he enjoyed travel and learning more about the law. He has always been determined to be on the right side of the law at all times, particularly in his duties as supervisor.
Another thing he has championed is respect for the person in trouble. As constable, he said he remembered the dignity of every person and he said if you “don’t let your gun and your badge and your mouth go the wrong way” there is usually no trouble.
When it came to zoning decisions, Flemon was most often the champion of the citizen.
“Sometimes you have to make tough decisions and rule against someone, especially concerning land use and zoning,” he said. “Sometimes you have to rule against someone and follow the law. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it has to be done within the law. Lots of people don’t understand the law is just law. You can’t bend the law and you can’t break the law. And you don’t want to have to worry about going out in handcuffs. You have the state auditor and you walk a straight line.”
His daughter, Elizabeth, said she is proud of her dad’s public service.
“I am happy for him because he didn’t finish school, but the Lord brought him a long way,” she said.
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