Phelps is a living legend after 65 years in law enforcement
In his 65 years of service in law enforcement, Madison County’s Carroll Phelps said his most memorable case was tracking down the killer of a young Catholic school teacher named Amy Lynn Lackett.
“It was so satisfying to track down the murder weapon, which was a softball bat, and then the killer himself, Carl Doss Ware,” Phelps said. “We got him sentenced to life without parole, and he’s still in jail today.”
Phelps, 86, was born in Pike County to Fay and T.C. Phelps in 1935. He attended Central High School in Jackson and worked as a shoemaker on Capitol Street before starting his decades-long career in law enforcement with the Jackson Police Department in April 1957.
“I was trying to get on the Jackson Fire Department, but they said I was too small,” Phelps said. “However, I made good friends with a police sergeant in charge of Capitol Street, and he suggested I get on with the police department, and he helped me get on the force. I was just 21 years old.”
After joining JPD, Phelps went on to serve in multiple police departments in Mississippi, working as a criminal investigator, and for two different District Attorney offices in his nearly seven-decade career.
Phelps said his biggest career highlights include influencing the JPD uniforms, integrating the police cars, serving for the Reservoir Police Department, and catching Carl Doss Ware after he killed Amy Lynn Lackett in November 1992. Ware was convicted of capital murder in December 1994 and sentenced to life without parole by the Madison County Circuit Court.
Phelps started as a rookie patrolman with JPD and worked his way through the ranks, achieving the rank of sergeant in 1968 and eventually reaching shift sergeant, lieutenant, and finally, captain.
During his time with JPD, Phelps said he was involved in helping design the police uniforms, which the officers still wear today, and led the charge in integrating officers into the police cars. He said the process was “smooth as silk” under his leadership.
Phelps said Jackson in the late 1950s was a completely different place compared to how it is today.
“I could go anywhere I wanted to by myself in all of Jackson, as the city wasn’t nearly as big back then,” he said.
Phelps served in JPD until 1977, when he retired. He then worked with a law firm in Tennessee as the head of security for around a year and a half. He said he did not like the job at all. Another friend of his, Bill Shuddersworth, was an officer for the Reservoir Patrol and offered him a position there. Phelps still considers his time with the Reservoir Patrol as one of his best jobs.
He stayed with the Reservoir Patrol for around eight years and decided to leave for Madison County when he learned Jessie Hopkins was the new sheriff. Now with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, Phelps once again served as a patrolman until he took charge of criminal investigations.
“I worked with the Sheriff’s Department as captain of investigations until the District Attorney at the time, John Kitchens, hired me,” Phelps said. “I worked with him until the administration changed, and I transferred to the Canton Police Department. I worked with them until Michael Guest became the DA in 2008, and I went to work under him.”
Phelps worked when Guest got elected until his retirement on May 15, 2022. He retired under current District Attorney, John “Bubba” Bramlett.
Guest, now a U.S. Congressman representing Mississippi’s Third District, said Phelps is a living legend.
“He’s just that kind of guy,” Guest said. “I don’t think you’ll ever see another Carroll Phelps. Nobody will serve their community like he has, for 65 years. I’m glad he’s finally getting to retire. He’s going to be missed.”
Phelps’ wife, Julia Phelps, said her husband had already been in law enforcement for a long time when they met, and she was never worried about her husband not coming home.
“Any law enforcement wife worries when their husbands leave the house, but I knew that Carroll knew what he was doing,” she said. “I never had the concern that he wasn’t coming home. It’s stressful for the officers because you never know when they have to leave. But it’s also good to know he’s out doing what he’s called to do.”
Todd Wilson, Captain of Criminal Investigations for the Madison Sheriff’s Department, said he met Phelps in 1991 when he started at the sheriff’s office and said Phelps immediately took on the teacher/mentor role.
“Through the years, we’ve had a close relationship,” Wilson said. “I often sought him out for advice on how to handle the tough cases. He’s a legend, and I’m honored that I’ve had the privilege to know and learn from him.”
Phelps enjoys spending time with his wife, their daughter Michele Wallace, and their grandkids, Brian Callahan, Brianna and Wyatt Wallace, and Louis Phelps. They also have two great-grandchildren, Harris and Adin Callahan. He enjoys fishing and gardening and is known for his woodworking abilities like making cabinets and even pool tables.
Phelps currently lives in Madison County and plans to spend as much time as possible with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.