Trooper laid to rest in Madison a hero


As a five-year-old boy, John Martin Harris declared to his father he wanted to be a “policeman” and he never wavered. 

John Martin knew his “why” early in life, his father, Jimmy Harris, said at the state trooper’s funeral on Tuesday at the Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison. Harris was a member of Madison United Methodist Church, but because of the large crowd the service was moved to Broadmoor.

“I asked John Martin when he was 5 years old, ‘What are you going to be?’ ‘Policeman,’” Jimmy Harris said. 

“I asked him at 6, 7, 8, 9 — ‘policeman.’ He never moved. At 10 I asked him. ‘Policeman.’ At 15 I asked him. ‘Policeman.’ Seventeen, ‘policeman.’ You know what he asked me when he was 18 years old? He said, ‘Daddy, I want to be emancipated.’”

Jimmy Harris said John Harris wanted to be emancipated so he could become a policeman before he turned 21, which he did shortly after becoming emancipated.

Jimmy Harris of Clarksdale said he was proud of his son, who died Friday after being struck by a dump truck west of Canton during a routine traffic stop.

“I am so proud that my son was a trooper,” Jimmy Harris said to the troopers assembled. “Y’all are an elite group of individuals who possess character, integrity — all the qualities that you would want your son or daughter to have.”

Jimmy Harris said that in Jackson his son was known simply as John. “In the Delta he is John Martin,” he said.

When John Martin asked his dad to be his best man, he told him that the best man should be the groom’s best friend.

“He looks at me and he said, ‘Daddy you are. You are,’” Jimmy Harris said. 

“At the rehearsal dinner, he gives me this. A little cardholder. (It is full of highway patrol cards right now.) If you read the inscription in it it reads, ‘Best man once. My hero always.’”

Jimmy Harris went on to say that John Martin had only wanted two things in life, to be a state trooper and to be a hero.

“Look around. He got it. He got both. He was a trooper, and he was a hero,” Jimmy Harris said to the assembled group of hundreds including friends, family, state dignitaries and law enforcement officials from Mississippi, Florida and Alabama, among others. “Heaven got a twofer. A top cop and a super trooper.”

Gov. Tate Reeves lauded John Martin’s service. “Mississippi is a better place because of Trooper John Harris,” he said. “And likely more importantly to John, Mississippi is a safer place because of Trooper John Harris.”

The governor went on to say, “We must take this tragedy as a stark reminder of how fragile life on Earth can be....and of the dangers and sacrifices our law enforcement officers face each day. We must hold his family close....his mom, his dad, wife and children....and we must also hold all of his brothers and sisters in blue close as well!”

Col. Randy Ginn, chief of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, said it didn’t take long after patrol school to get to know John Martin.

He was determined, Ginn said. He was determined to seize the opportunity when he felt like it was his time to go to patrol school and he was “determined to get in and to stay in and that he did.”

Ginn attributed the trooper’s determination to his upbringing.

“I think that probably comes from his upbringing and probably with his brothers and friends and all the things that you do growing up you get a determination to do what you want to do,” he said. “Then you go after it when you have the opportunity.”

He didn’t just want to get there, Ginn said. “He wanted to get through and finish what he had started. That he very well did. He earned everything he got in life and he earned the opportunity to join us in the highway patrol and to serve as a trooper.”

John Martin was dedicated, but he loved life, Ginn said. “He loved his family, his wife and his children and he loved what he did because he loved serving people and making a difference and he went about — if you know his career — making a difference everywhere that he was. The things that he faced and the challenges that he faced when he was at Friar’s Point and then at Madison County and then as he has come through Richland and into the Highway Patrol. 

“When I talk to people who have worked with him at all of those places all of them said the same thing about John. He was determined to do it right and he wasn’t going to quit. He wanted to be a part of the solution of what’s going on in society. John was dedicated in the job he had with us even to the point that he would come out and work when he didn’t have to because he knew somebody else was gone and they were short-handed, or knew it was a holiday and there would be extra people on the road and he would come out. He would drive to Louisiana to help take off a load of dope if that needed to be done. He was driven. He was determined and he was dedicated.”

The Rev. Barry Male, John’s Martin’s pastor at Madison United Methodist and the one who delivered the message at the funeral, said he talked to John Martin’s youth pastor this week.

“Can you imagine who John was at 13? I talked to his youth pastor who at that time was only a 19-year-old kid,” he said.

His youth pastor at Clarksdale Methodist was Eddie Rester. “I want to close with what Rev. Rester said about John Martin. Here is what he said, ‘I was a rookie youth director at Clarksdale Methodist when I met John Martin, he was simply a force of nature as a 13-year-old kid and some of you can testify to that. He was the kid who had the ability to drive me crazy with his energy and recklessness but then he would amaze me with his generous heart for others in depth of faith he was always John Martin no more and no less. Fearless, true, faithful.’”

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