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‘Uncle Billy’ Phelps loved the community, people he served

Constable Billy Phelps, left, and other officers of the court pledge allegiance to the American flag at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Harrison County Justice Court building in Gulfport in 2011. Phelps, a retired Harrison County constable, died on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016.
Constable Billy Phelps, left, and other officers of the court pledge allegiance to the American flag at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Harrison County Justice Court building in Gulfport in 2011. Phelps, a retired Harrison County constable, died on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. Sun Herald File

Former Harrison County District 3 constable William “Billy” Phelps, a longtime servant and friend to the community, died Monday night. He was 71.

Phelps served 23 years as constable until his retirement in 2015.

“He really enjoyed — he loved his job,” Harrison County District 3 Supervisor Marlin Ladner said.

Ladner said Phelps already was a community fixture when Ladner first took office as a supervisor close to 20 years ago. As constable, Phelps worked closely with the justice court, serving warrants and writing traffic tickets. Ladner called Phelps “one of the most active community constables” he’s ever known.

We called him ‘Uncle Billy.’ None of us was related to him, yet he always greeted you with a handshake and a hug.

Jason Green

Phelps used his position to better the lives of others, often participating in community events, duties or functions.

“He would work school zones,” Ladner said. “He’d direct traffic to make sure the kids were safe. He played Santa Claus. He’d participate in the Mardi Gras parades. He was always in the community.”

Phelps also was involved with the Carnival Association of Long Beach. He was the face of its revival after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Reimann Family Funeral Homes director Jason Green said.

“As we say, Billy got us kick-started after Katrina in 2007. He was King Scott the 46th after we took a year off,” Green said.

Phelps’ love for his job led him to continue his work as constable even as his health began to fail him. But he pushed through, Ladner and Green said, until he decided to retire. Green said he remembers Phelps coming to the funeral home with his oxygen tank to help out.

“He had many, many medical procedures and he never gave up,” Green said.

His wife of 54 years, Katherine Phelps, served out the rest of Phelps’ term until January 2016. Former Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford took over the position.

“The best way to describe him really is that he was a nice guy, a real, nice guy that loved his job,” Ladner said. “And I really don’t think I ever heard any negative words about him.”

“He loved Harrison County, but his heart was in District 3 in Long Beach,” Green said. “We called him ‘Uncle Billy.’ No one was related to him yet he always greeted you with a handshake and a hug,” he said.

Visitation for Phelps is 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday night at Central Baptist Church in Long Beach. Riemann Family Funeral Homes is handling arrangements. Visitation continues there 10 a.m. Thursday until service at noon. Burial will follow at Allen Cemetery in Long Beach.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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