Former Guntown mayor and Lee County Sheriff passes away

Robert Herring

Robert Spencer “Marcus” Herring is well known in Guntown and far beyond. The 79-year-old lifelong resident of the northern Lee County town passed away Monday, August 5, of apparent heart failure. He was buried yesterday in Campbelltown Cemetery. Herring leaves a long legacy of service to Guntown and the people of Lee County; he served as a justice court judge, sheriff and mayor of the town he grew up in. Maybe not particularly noted, Herring was instrumental in integrating the law enforcement community in this region. That action was likely just part of his nature, according to one of his lifelong friends. “We grew up together in Guntown,” said James Knowles, 78 and a native of Guntown. Although they attended separate black and white schools, “After school was out, we’d get right back together playing,” Knowles said. That friendship continued after their school years and while Herring served as justice court judge, he toyed with the notion of running for sheriff. Knowles said Herring asked if he would be interested in working for him should he be elected. Knowles said he, of course, agreed, and Herring was elected. “I attended the law enforcement academy in Jackson,” said Knowles. He was not only the first black deputy in Lee County but the first academy-certified deputy in the department, retiring as a captain in 2004 with 32 years of service. Knowles is proud of the “trust and confidence (Herring) had in me.” He attributes that relationship to the childhood years they spent together and with other white and black boys back in the day. “He was well known and thought of,” Guntown Mayor Bud Herring said of his uncle, Robert Herring. “He had quite a career and was one of the youngest sheriffs ever elected in Mississippi at that time.” Robert Herring was in his very early thirties when he was elected to his first term; he served a second term after a four-year hiatus when he was defeated by another candidate. “He loved Guntown and the state of Mississippi,” said Bud Herring. “He knew my own love of Guntown and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.” Bud said he sought his uncle’s advice before seeking office himself. Bud’s father and Robert’s brother, E.LE. “Tapper” Herring, also served as mayor of the town; the city park is named for him. “(Robert Herring) was one of the best sheriffs and mayors we ever had,” said Jacqueline Shumpert, another lifelong resident of Guntown who knew Herring most of her life. “He was fair and his family was fair and friendly.” Herring is survived by his wife of 60 years, Jo Ann Robison Herring of Guntown; two sons, Barry Herring (Jamye) of Hattiesburg and Darren Herring (Teena) of Guntown; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren and one brother, Jimmy Dale Herring (Nan) of Guntown; host of nieces, nephews, family and friends. Herring was a member of Guntown First Baptist Church, the Rob Ford Sunday School Class and a 32nd Degree Mason at Saltillo Lodge #294. He was preceded in death by his parents, Earnest and Bonnie Herring; brother, E.E. “Tapper” Herring and two sisters, Johnnie Wheat and Maxine Danielson. “This is a big loss for me,” Knowles said. “He was just like family. We loved each other.”

C. Richard Cotton

Freelance writer/photographer/editor/author

243 County Road 783

Saltillo MS 38866


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