By Jackie Hampton,
According to the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, an ambulance was sent to the home of Sheriff Lee Vance Wednesday morning where he was found non-responsive. The buzz was out before noon as local televisions stations and other media announced Vance had succumbed. Sheriff’s department Captain Tyree Jones confirmed his passing to WLBT-TV.
Two weeks ago, it was announced that Vance had tested positive for COVID-19, after an outbreak of the illness at a jail he oversaw, but it has not been stated that this was the cause of his passing.
Vance was elected sheriff in 2019 after a 30-year career with the Jackson Police Department. He served as chief of Police from 2014-2017.
Jay Johnson, a Jackson Police Department employee, was shocked and saddened to hear of his transition. Johnson said, “Lee and I were lifetime friends. We started at Jackson State University together in 1976. We worked together at UPS early on and later followed each other to JPD in 1987.”
Johnson said they were in each other’s weddings. “Recently we took a picture together at the mayor’s inauguration not realizing it would be the last time we would see each other and have a laugh. He was a professional in his field with the city and the county and will be greatly missed,” Johnson said.
Rob Jay, who serves as assistant athletic director for JSU Media, was a long-time friend of Vance. He said, “I still cannot believe this. I was so upset when I received the news, I had to leave work.”
In describing their friendship Rob said, “We were good friends and followed some of the same tracks. We both attended Lanier High School, we both attended Jackson State University and we both majored in mass comm.”
Rob recalled when he worked at WLBT-TV he had a broadcast segment every Saturday morning called ‘Chat with the Chief.’ “Vance was a great guest. Each week he would just go with the flow and though he was a professional guy, he also could just cut up,” he said.
Rob said, “When I left WLBT and started running Jackson State’s radio station, I developed a show called ‘Metro Live’ and Vance was the first one on the show. Lee always showed up when I needed him.”
Rob recalled how much fun they had at the mayor’s inauguration and like Jay Johnson, he did not know that would be the last time they would have that kind of fun together.