A special memorial service was held on the Courtsquare Sunday afternoon to honor and remember Sgt. John Howell, the only Lincoln County law enforcement officer ever killed in the line of duty.
It was on the evening of August 26, 1973, that Sgt. John Hugh Howell II, only 24 years old, was shot and killed after responding to a domestic dispute.
Howell had served in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in the US Army. John Howell Memorial Drive, where the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office is now located, was named for him.
The idea for the memorial service came from Alan Hoyle and was endorsed as most appropriate by Sheriff Bill Beam, who said, "it's long overdue."
Hoyle and Beam both spoke at the service as did two men who had served with Howell--Gene Sain, who still works part-time with the Sheriff's Office, and Russell Hull, a deputy when Howell was killed who later worked at and retired from the Communications Center.
Captain Charlie Green read a poem, "The Badge," and Hoyle played a recording of Howell's favorite song, "Why Me?" by Kris Kristofferson. The song, better known now as "Why Me Lord?" a title used in later recordings by other artists, was recorded by Kristofferson in 1972, featuring backing vocals by soon-to-be wife Rita Coolidge and up-and-coming singer-songwriter Larry Gatlin. It was released in April 1973, and was played often on the radio during the summer leading up to Howell's death.
Detective Greg Hager, chaplain at the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, offered the opening prayer and Lt. Kelly Paris sang a flawless rendition of the national anthem. Sheriff's deputies Sgt. Melvin McCleave and Detective Dylan Houser, the color guard, presented the flag.
Hoyle said he hopes to form a committee to raise funds and petition the County to erect a Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on the Courthouse lawn.
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