"Big John" Elder dies
Friday, September 3, 2004
John Leeper

"Big John Elder was one of the best men I've known and one of the finest officers to have ever worked for me. His death at such a young age is a great loss to this community and to me personally." -- Dyersburg Police Chief Bobby Williamson John F. Elder, 37, died Thursday morning at Dyersburg Regional Medical Center from complications related to a yearlong battle with cancer.

As the news spread through the ranks of the Dyersburg Police Department where he served for 14 years, variations on a single theme were brought up repeatedly.

"He was a giant of a man in every way."

Standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing 360 pounds at the prime of his life, Elder was a police officer that children in the city were naturally drawn to and a man deeply respected by his colleagues.

While official arrangements through Hudson Funeral Home were incomplete at this time, Rev. W. L. McCadney, pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, said visitation would take place in the church on Saturday, Sept. 4, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Funeral services are scheduled for First Baptist Church in downtown Dyersburg on Sunday, Sept. 5, at 2 p.m.

In June, a ceremony at the municipal courtroom building, "Big John" Elder officially ended his 14-year law enforcement career with the DPD. More than 50 area law enforcement officers, government officials and friends were in attendance.

Elder said in his official retirement statement, "I told my family when I left Atlanta, Georgia, in 1983 that I was not coming back home. My family has visited our great town and now has full understanding why I chose to stay."

"Big John has contributed much to this community and to this department. He was vital in the building of police and community relations," Williamson said. He also described Elder as "one of the kindest big men I have ever known. He never put anyone down."

His gift, however, was an ability to draw children to him and work with them. That was the reason Williamson said he assigned Elder to the bicycle patrol.

"He really cared about kids, which is why I wanted him on bike patrol," Williamson said. "He was a certified bicycle instructor and would put on bike rodeos around the city. Big John is going to be missed."

Elder was a member at Pilgrim Rest.

He is survived by his wife Jowanda, A Son and a Daughter, all of Dyersburg.


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