By Alyssa Schnugg
As several Lafayette County Sheriff’s deputies made their way to stand in various spots inside the sanctuary of North Oxford Baptist Church, the crowd of about 2,000 people who came to say goodbye to Sheriff “F.D” Buddy East fell silent.
Soon the sound of a radio crackling broke the somber quietness.
Lafayette County Dispatcher Jason Busby’s voice came over the radio, asking for the channel to remain clear.
“Dispatch to Lafayette 1 … This is the last call for Sheriff F.D. ‘Buddy’ East. All units please be advised that Lafayette 1, Sheriff F.D. ‘Buddy’ East went to his heavenly home on Sept. 8, 2018 … Sheriff East, we thank you for your dedication and your loyalty in your 46 years of service to the citizens of Lafayette County, the state of Mississippi and the United States of America. You made the people you serve feel like family. You influenced many with your unending compassion and respect for all and service in many facets of law enforcement. You may be gone but you will never be forgotten. You are cleared to be en route to your final eternal destination. Rest Easy Sheriff. We will take it from here. God bless you. Lafayette 1, end of watch, Sept. 14 at 12 o’clock.”
Law enforcement from several counties and cities around Mississippi attended the funeral while the Oxford Police Department, whose chief, Joey East, is the son of Sheriff East, showed their respects by handling traffic so that the sheriff’s department could say goodbye to their sheriff and their friend.
Pastor Fish Robinson, who serves as the chaplain of the sheriff’s department, spoke at East’s funeral, sharing stories about East that at times invoked a few laughs mixed in with many tears, his love for his family, his deputies and God.
“Today folks we are here to celebrate one of the greatest ever,” Robinson said. “The sheriff, the Dad, the Papaw, the Granddaddy, and probably the most important to all of us here … a friend.”
A native of Lafayette County, East served his community as the longest tenured sheriff in Mississippi and the second-longest serving sheriff in the nation. Prior to his first term as Lafayette County Sheriff in 1972, he served as the Assistant Chief of Police for the Oxford Police Department.
The Rev. Randy Bain said East asked him to preach at his funeral more than 15 years ago.
“What would I say about a man I considered to be larger than life itself,” Bain said. “A man who shaped my life. A man who influenced me and enabled me to boyhood to manhood. What do I say about a man who has been a living legend in his time?”
Bain credited East for saving his life when he was just 18 years old and he and a friend went to duck hunt and became stuck out on Sardis Lake on a cold December day for several hours in bad weather after the motor on their boat failed to start. Around midnight, he saw a light. It was another boat and on it was East, holding out his hand.
“I took the hand of my hero,” Bain said. “That man found me when I was lost. That was a turning point in my life … it was not long after that I dedicated my life to finding those who are lost and in a helpless state.”
After the funeral, the procession to Shiloh Cemetery was one of the longest ever witnessed by Oxford and Lafayette County citizens. Along the route, Shiver’s Towing and the Oxford Fire Department stretched out American flags from underpasses as the hundreds of cars drove by.
East is survived by his wife Mary Hall East of Oxford; five children, Melissa Westbrook and her husband, Billy, Joey East and his wife, Kimberly, Shannon Lomax and her husband, Max, Steve Lewis and his wife, Melanie, all of Oxford and Scott Lewis and his wife, Brandi of Dallas, TX; a sister, Nona Tutor of Oxford and thirteen grandchildren.
Memorial contributions in Sheriff East’s memory may be made to Lafayette School Building Fund, 100 Commodore Drive, Oxford, MS 38655.