WALNUT RIDGE — Former Walnut Ridge Police Chief Tommy Blackburn, who died on Monday, is remembered as a man who was proud to serve others.
In addition to serving in the Walnut Ridge Police Department, he went on to serve in the Pocahontas Police Department and also served the town of Portia as mayor.
Blackburn, 57, started at the WRPD as a patrolman in the late 1990s.
Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp said Blackburn’s story is a classic example of how a person can start at the entry level and climb through the ranks, with him eventually serving as chief of the Walnut Ridge Police Department.
“We appreciate the time that he served in Walnut Ridge,” Snapp said. “Our hearts are with the Blackburn family.”
Lawrence County Sheriff Tony Waldrupe said Blackburn was both a co-worker and a friend.
“I started as a reserve in ’99, and he was there,” Waldrupe said of his time serving with Blackburn at the WRPD. “He was a good close friend and will definitely be missed. “
He noted that Blackburn served as the WRPD chief until January 2007, then eventually retired from Pocahontas Police Department.
“He served both Walnut Ridge and Pocahontas with dignity,” Waldrupe said.
WRPD Chief Jordan Cooksey said while he never had the opportunity to serve with Blackburn, he remembered him from growing up in the community.
“I knew Tommy just being an officer – I liked him – he was your typical firm but fair,” Cooksey said.
He said he got to know him more once he became an officer in Walnut Ridge and Blackburn was serving in Pocahontas.
“I hate losing him,” he said. “He was a great guy.”
Waldrupe recalled that it was on Blackburn’s watch as Portia mayor that an unsafe carnival showed up for the Portia Picnic and his true integrity showed.
“He was mayor when the carnival showed up, and he found safety issues and shut the carnival down,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”
Funeral service for Blackburn is today at noon at Cox Funeral Home in Walnut Ridge. A visitation will precede the service beginning at 10 a.m.