Bettis highway dedication was exceptional

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It was rainy.

It was a little cool.

The mood was joyous.

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On Monday, the Alabama Correctional Officer Kenneth L. Bettis Memorial Highway was dedicated at Coastal Alabama Community College in Atmore.

Family, friends, colleagues and state dignitaries were present for the ceremony, which was held for Bettis, who was fatally stabbed by an inmate at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in September 2016.

As I stood and watched each person speak, I couldn’t help but think about the way that Bettis will be remembered.

Daily and on trips out of town, I always notice street and highway signs that are dedicated to those who have made an impact.

During the ceremony, many reflected on Bettis’ life and work as a correctional officer, a member of the United States Armed Forces and as a human being.

From what I gathered, Bettis was a man of character and honor.

There was a story shared by Correctional Officer Willie Harris that I found pin pointed what was trying to get across to those gathered.

Harris recalled a memory when Bettis had a box of fried chicken at work. Some time later, Bettis told Harris that he’s more than welcome to have some chicken.

Harris said he told Bettis no thanks or something similar.

“Safe to say that I had some chicken that day,” Harris said, adding that Bettis insisted he had some chicken.

Bettis, it seemed to me, didn’t take no for an answer, even if it was for some chicken. He seemed to be a good friend and one who looks out for others less fortunate.

Doing the job he did day in and day out was tough I’d imagine.

Just imagine having to report to work in a ¬— and I don’t use this word often here — very dangerous environment.

That had to have been rough on Bettis.

However, Harris emphasized that Bettis never changed one bit. He was the same person every day.

We can all strive to be like Bettis and to remember what he did for us.

When you drive by the stretch of highway, from the intersection of Interstate 65 and Highway 21 to the intersection of Highway 21 and Smithfield Road, think about the contribution of a man who was kind and sought the protection of others.

When I left the ceremony, the weather let up a little and the mood was still joyous.