Johnson, Jim

Johnson

TUPELO • The Lee County chapter of the NAACP on Wednesday officially released a hand-written letter from Sheriff Jim Johnson apologizing for racist text messages he sent to a county supervisor.

“After much prayer and thought, I want to add to my prior statements regarding certain text messages from 2017,” the letter reads. “I want to sincerely apologize for any statements or comments that offended anyone.”

The apology letter is signed by Johnson and is on official letterhead from the sheriff’s department. The apology letter follows the discovery by the Daily Journal that Johnson wrote that a local state legislator was “worse than a black person” and couldn’t be pleased.

The president of the local NAACP chapter, the Rev. Chris Traylor, told the Daily Journal the executive committee of the local chapter has accepted Johnson’s letter.

According to Traylor, Johnson first sent the hand-written apology letter to the group, but the letter was not on official letterhead. The executive committee of the NAACP wanted the apology letter on official letterhead, and Johnson wrote a second letter.

Traylor said he does not anticipate the NAACP will take any further action in response to Johnson’s statements now that Johnson has apologized to the organization and since the Lee County Board of Supervisors said there was little action it could take in response to Johnson’s remarks.

“The county supervisors told us there was nothing they could do except for (Johnson’s) budget,” Traylor told the Daily Journal. “And, they aren’t even sure they could do that.”

On Tuesday, Traylor asked the county supervisors if they could provide additional funding to the sheriff’s department for diversity and bias training and ask the sheriff to hire more minority deputies at the department.

Tommie Lee Ivy, the lone black supervisor on the board, previously told the Daily Journal he plans to examine the county’s upcoming budget for the next fiscal year to decide if he will vote to approve it or not. He said unless the sheriff plans to hire more minority field deputies in the sheriff’s department, he does not think he can support the budget.

“(Johnson) has to make a commitment before I’ll support the budget,” Ivy previously said.

All of the other county supervisors said they did not plan to take any further action.

The board of supervisors will vote on the county’s budget on Friday, Sept. 13.

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