Sheriff Williams receives John L. Martin Award

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, October 10, 2019

Bell County Sheriff Mitch Williams is the 2019 recipient of the John L. Martin Award. Williams was honored with the award at a ceremony Tuesday hosted by the Wilderness Road Kiwanis Club.

“I’m humbled by it,” Williams said of receiving the award. “You make a career out of something like that and it’s been 32 years in law enforcement. I started out in Pineville, and then I went to (Kentucky) State Police and now I’m sheriff. How I explained it to them the other day is, you know you have successes and a lot of that is because of the people around you.”

The award honors 39-year-old Lee County Sheriff Sgt. John Lee Martin. His life was taken in 1988 while investigating a suspicious vehicle. The suspect opened fire on Martin and he died a short time later. The suspect was apprehended and sentenced to life in prison. Martin served in law enforcement 17 years.

Email newsletter signup

“In his honor, they recognize officers in our area from Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia,” Williams explained. “They recognize somebody for their work and their career in law enforcement.”

Williams explained that it’s because of the people around him that he works with that has made his career longstanding.

“You have your prosecutors and your attorneys who help you tie up your lose ends and get your cases ready for trials,” he explained. “You have other officers who support what you are doing out there because they are helping you and your agencies have the resources that you need to be able to do your job.”

He said that you can’t look at it as the career you chose or the career that you were able to maintain over 30 years.

“It’s maintained because the people around you,” he said. “The stars aligned.”

Sheriff Art Kinkelaar of Effingham, Ill. received the initial award for his efforts that brought Sgt. Martin’s killer to justice.

“The thing about it, the job and the sacrifice that John made is far superior to anything that I’ve ever made, and there are many like him,” Williams continued to say. “That’s what humbles you down as far as most of the guys who paved the way for the other guys and their sacrifice. Sometimes their sacrifice is what helps us get home at the end of the day, and it’s what helps everybody get home at the end of the day.”

Commonwealth Attorney Karen Green Blondell, deputy Jared Smith, deputy Sean Pursifull and K-9 King, Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons and Attorney General Paul Phillips are all former recipients of the John L. Martin Award.

“I guess in a way you feel a little guilty because I think of those guys and you kind of don’t feel deserving for those reasons,” he explained. “It’s for the people that are around you that help get you to the point to where somebody does recognize the sacrifice you make for your family and that is giving to the job all of those years but that’s what helps you maintain it.”

Williams said that you are only as strong as your weakest link.

“I have had some pretty good links around me,” he said.