TOP PHOTO: Longtime La Follette businessman Jerry Bowman stopped by to express his appreciation to James Lynch.
By Jim Freeman
LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – You know. La Follette Police Lt. James Lynch’s last official day on the job is next Friday. So, there’s still plenty of time for him to change his mind and unretire. After all, there would have been double the turnout at Lynch’s retirement celebration on Thursday if folks really believed he was actually retiring after all these 43 years and eight months. “If we’d had this on April 1st, no one would have shown up,” said a grinning Steve Wallen, LPD Chief.
Lynch graduated La Follette High School in 1973, spent the next eight years in the Navy followed by six and a half years with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office and the final 37 years and two months with the La Follette Police Force. “I’ve spent my entire career in uniform,” said the Lieutenant. Lynch has held about every position there is with LPD from patrolman all the way to chief.
Contrary to popular belief the man who is so well known for handing out speeding tickets never issued a ticket to his mother, and I asked. “I never did,” said Lynch. However, current chief Steve Wallen’s mother was not so fortunate as he describes his first encounter with Lynch. “Mom picked me up from school at La Follette Middle School, and she was sick and going a little fast to get back home, because she was feeling so badly. James pulled her over, and she asked him to give her a break, because she was sick and really needing to get back home quickly. She even threw up while Lynch was beside her car. Lynch responded that he was writing as fast as he could,” said Chief Wallen.
“We survived,” said Mayor Cliff Jennings to Lynch as the two shook hands in the lobby of City Hall “We appreciate you,” said Jennings. The mayor added how impressive it was for Lynch to have worked for all these years for so many police chiefs and mayors.
Jennings said Joe Friday was his nickname for Lynch. Friday was the star of the hit TV show Dragnet who was famous for saying “just give me the facts.” “You have a good reputation,” said the mayor.
Lynch recalled two life saving incidents over his storied career. One was when a boyfriend attacked a mother and her two under age five children with a knife. The mother’s throat was slashed. Lynch’s quick action got her the help she needed, and she survived. The other was when a man was stabbed in the shoulder with a long fish filet knife in a downtown parking lot. “My military training came in handy there. I took a paper towel and the cellophane wrapper off my cigarette pack and sealed off the wound. The doctor said he would never have made it otherwise,” said Lynch.
Chief Wallen shared the story of being new on the force and trying to impress Lt. Lynch. It was a call to a mobile home near Lynch’s home, and Wallen went through the empty mobile home and nothing turned up. As he came out, he saw a woman with a couple of dogs standing in the street watching. The Lieutenant asked Wallen what he found. He said nothing except that nosy woman standing in the street. Lt. Lynch told Wallen he’d like for him to meet his wife Patsy.
“You do know you have a few days left. You could still decide not to retire,” said Stan Foust, City of La Follette Administrator.
(WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 06/23/2023-6AM)