End of Watch Ceremony
Forty-five years ago today, Harrison County Deputy Earl Wesley Phillips was shot and killed in the line of duty. Gone, but certainly not forgotten.
News 25’s Toni Miles takes us to Floral Hills Cemetery in Gulfport where law enforcement, family, and friends gathered to honor the late deputy in an official End of Watch Ceremony.
Grace is what’s held the Phillips family together these past 45 years after Deputy Earl Wesley Phillips was gunned down in the line of duty.
Deputy Phillips died doing what he loved most: protecting and serving his community while chasing down a criminal suspect. A 20-year veteran with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, the deputy, and father of three, was known for going above and beyond. His son, Earl ‘Buster’ Phillips Jr., said, “He would wear that uniform at times when he didn’t need to. He loved to keep the uniform on.”
Phillips’ killer served only ten years in prison for the murder and later on was imprisoned for another 18 years for armed robbery, but on this day, family, friends, and law enforcement are simply remembering the legacy Phillips left behind. Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson said, “I didn’t know him. I was three-years-old when he died, but the people in the community I have talked to about him say he was the most genuine guy you could ever meet. He would never do anything to hurt anybody and he would always try to help anybody he could.”
When Sheriff Peterson discovered no formal commemoration ceremony had ever been held for Deputy Phillips, he felt it was his duty to honor the late lawman with a proper End of Watch Ceremony. “Although it was 40 years ago, it doesn’t matter,” said Sheriff Peterson. “We still need to honor his presence here. He gave the ultimate sacrifice so I felt it was the right thing to do for the family and for him.”
Phillips’ grandson, Wesley Adam Phillips Sr., said, “Being a grandson, I was only nine-months-old. I don’t remember him, but it’s very wonderful that this is being done.”
Deputy Phillips stood his watch well. While his watch has ended, his legacy lives on as evidenced by three generations of family gathered these 45 years later to honor and keep his memory alive.