By Alyssa Schnugg
Oxford’s iconic police car, loving dubbed, “Barney,” is now back home with the family who donated the 1951 Buick Roadmaster to the city more than 40 years ago.
Earlier this month, the Oxford Board of Aldermen approved a request to return Barney to the Neilson family, who asked to have the car back.
David and Norma Neilson donated “Barney” to the Oxford Police Department in the mid-70s when Chief Barry White was at the helm of the department.
Officer Mike Stewart, who eventually became chief of police of the University Police Department, wanted to use the car to help open communication between area children and the OPD.
“He was looking for a vehicle to use to take out and talk to the children, going to the schools and help them feel good about policemen,” Norma Neilson said.
The car was painted and renovated to look like an old police car and assigned to the Junior Police Department. Most of the funds to create “Barney,” – named after the beloved television police deputy Barney Fife – came from local businesses and individual donations.
For many years, “Barney” was a common sight around town – at schools, in neighborhoods, during special events and parades. Around 2011, the old boy started to show his age and it was decided it was time to retire “Barney.” The car was placed on a cement pad in front of OPD in 2012.
However, a couple of years later the pad had to be removed due to a drainage issue. The Oxford Fire Department agreed to take “Barney,” with the thought that the firefighters could work on the car in between cars.
Recently, members of the Neilson family noticed “Barney” sitting under a tree at OFD Station 4 and decided to ask the city to take the vehicle back. In the original contract between the Neilsons and the city of Oxford, it was agreed that the Neilsons could request the car be returned should OPD decide to get rid of the vehicle.
Neilson said she isn’t sure yet what the family will do with the car.
“It would be a major endeavor to restore it as it’s in very bad shape,” Neilson said recently.
But for now, “Barney” is up on cinder blocks back with family that made “him” an Oxford celebrity.