Black history program to honor Moffett, public safety workers

Tommy Moffett says when he was named the city’s first black police chief in 1986, he viewed the promotion as more about doing a good job, and he brushed aside  the distinction of breaking a color barrier.

“It was irrelevant to me at the time,” says Moffett, who held the rank of chief in the Biloxi Police Department from 1986 to 2002, after joining the force in 1973 and becoming patrol commander, the No. 2 person in the department at the time. “My goal was to work to be the best police chief in the history of the city or state. You would look around at the chiefs you knew and respected and you would work to become better than the best chief that you knew.”

But today, the 30-year veteran of the Biloxi Police Department embraces another perspective, as the NAACP prepares to honor him  and other African-American police officers and firefighters in a program Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Biloxi Civic Center. The NAACP, which is co-sponsoring the free program with the city and Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, has chosen Rev. John Whitfield as keynote speaker.

“In my later years and when I look back on it right now,” Moffett said, “I didn’t see it as a big deal, and you probably can go back and see where I said that back then. It was a big deal, with awards, newspaper clippings, letters. Jet magazine did a story. I should have held on to everything. Now, it’s not about me, it’s about community and culture and progress.”

Moffett, who turns 66 next month, said he came to relish the importance in later years – he left Biloxi to become chief in Vicksburg for eight years and then Indianola chief for a couple of years – as he spoke to young officers, young people and even elected leaders.

Said the chief: “The message is that you do the work, you work hard, you bust your butt and do the best you can. Stay the course, don’t get caught up in any foolishness, and you will be successful.”
See photos from Tommy Moffett’s retirement party
See your invitation to the Thursday night program


News and notes

Storm follow up: Biloxi Public Works Acting Director Billy Ray Allen says other than a few downed tree limbs and some sand on U.S. 90, the well-publicized overnight storm was hardly more than a nuisance for the most part. Said Allen: “We didn’t have any major reports of street flooding, other than we had to close the low-lying areas of Cedar Lake Road.”

Traffic update: To see the status of roadwork through the city, click here.