OPELIKA, Ala. — The barefoot body of Lee County Deputy James Anderson rested at the front of First Baptist Church Tuesday afternoon.
About 500 uniformed law enforcement officers from every corner of Alabama and much of West Georgia, filed into the packed downtown Opelika church to pay respects to Anderson, 39, who was killed in the line of duty last week during a traffic stop in Smiths Station, Gregory Henderson of Columbus is being held without bond in Anderson’s death. He has been charged with capital murder. “He approached life with barefoot abandon,” First Baptist Church pastor Steve Scoggins said of Anderson.
The preacher then explained himself as he told those in the sanctuary that Anderson “had no shoes on his feet in that casket.”
He told stories of how Anderson hated to wear shoes, saying the bottoms of his feet were tough as leather because he ran up and down the gravel driveway of his Salem, Ala., home minus shoes.
His first meeting with his future wife’s parents, Anderson showed up at the restaurant without shoes.
“They had to go to the K-mart in Phenix City to buy shoes,” Scoggins said.
Anderson became a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy three years ago after serving almost 18 months as a volunteer reserve deputy. A carpenter by trade, Anderson’s goal was to work in law enforcement.
Sheriff Jay Jones gave a brief but powerful eulogy of the first Lee County deputy killed in the line of duty in almost 80 years. Jones, in full uniform which is uncommon for the sheriff, said he spent part of Tuesday morning looking at Anderson’s personnel file.
He said he came across a short essay Anderson wrote on why he should be hired by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
“I don’t think he would mind, because there is nothing I could say that would say it any better,” Jones said as he began to read Anderson’s words.
“I will bring honesty and integrity to the department,” Jones read. “... I will not let a fellow deputy down.”
Jones then concluded: “I have shown this department I will not give up. I hope you will take into consideration the time I have given to and for everyone here.”
The sheriff then sat down less than three minutes after he started.