Harrison County

The story behind Long Beach’s ‘Trooper William Kenny Memorial Highway’

A stretch of U.S. 90 through Long Beach is now officially designated as the ‘Trooper William Kenny Memorial Highway: End of Watch December 21, 1967.’
A stretch of U.S. 90 through Long Beach is now officially designated as the ‘Trooper William Kenny Memorial Highway: End of Watch December 21, 1967.’ jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

If you travel the stretch of U.S. 90 through Long Beach, you’ve probably noticed some new signs designating it as the “Trooper William Kenny Memorial Highway: End of Watch December 21, 1967.”

The signs were installed Wednesday by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, one just east of Lang Avenue about 1 mile from where MSgt. William Kenny was killed in an auto accident nearly 50 years ago.

At the time, he was a 17-year veteran of the Mississippi Highway Patrol when his patrol car was hit by a drunk driver just four days before Christmas in 1967.

He left behind a wife and two sons. His wife, Elsie Kenny, died in 1999, and the oldest of two sons, Mike, died in 2001.

The recognition is important to the family, said his son MSgt. David Kenny (Ret.), who followed in his father’s path, joining the Mississippi Highway Patrol and retiring after 28 years of service.

“It means a lot, especially the way they came out and presented the sign,” Kenny said. “My dad was a good man. People respected him. I’ve gotten emails from all over telling how deserving he was of this honor.”

MSgt. William Kenny was returning home from Biloxi where he had been working on an investigation, David Kenny said. A drunk driver drove into westbound traffic and slammed the patrol car into an oak tree in the median, killing William Kenny on impact.

1119 William Kenny
William Kenny

David Kenny was 12 years old in 1967 and Mike was 13. David remembers that the two boys would not go to bed before their dad drove the patrol car into the driveway. That particular night they saw more than one patrol car drive up, but as far as they knew, everything was OK.

“We saw one patrol car drive up, then another one, and then another one,” David Kenny recalled. “We went to bed, and then the next thing we hear is our mother scream. Some kind of way they told us.

“It was a hell of a Christmas for Mike and I. I remember we had worked and saved our money and bought him a gift for Christmas. We put it in the casket with him.”

David Kenny said there was one thing about his father that many people didn’t know: As a child, his father was left on the doorstep of Boys Town in Nebraska to be raised by the organization also known as Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home.

“The Walter Gex family took him in and raised him as their own,” David Kenny said. “We still have a close relationship with Walter Gex Jr.”

Capt. Johnny Poulos, director of public affairs for the Mississippi Highway Patrol, said that he didn’t personally know the fallen officer, but he knows his son quite well.

“David Kenny was my master sergeant when I first came out of the academy,” Poulos said. “His father would have been very proud of him and the career he has had as a trooper. I have a great deal of respect for him.

“It is so important that we honor our officers who have given their lives in the line of duty. It also honors the family. You can’t replace the loss of a loved one, but you can let the family know that their loved one will not be forgotten.”

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