By Jack Elliott Jr./The Associated Press
JACKSON — Across Mississippi, the highway system is dotted with signs honoring athletes, civil rights figures, military heroes and law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
More will come this year. The 2013 Legislature authorized at least 12 signs and streamlined the process of honoring fallen members of the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation is responsible for putting up signs.
The designations are supported by organizations, or local governments or citizens. Lawmakers approve them one-by-one.
House Bill 225, which becomes law July 1, allows the Highway Patrol and MDOT to decide together to name a segment of any public street, road, highway or interstate for a state trooper who had died in the line of duty. Highway Patrol officers who have died in the line of duty since Jan. 1, 1938, would be eligible for a memorial roadway designation.
A distinctive marker will be designed by the Department of Public Safety with help from the Mississippi State Troopers’ Association.
Lawmakers would approve funding for the markers, and DPS also could receive gifts, grants or donations for the makers.
DPS spokesman Warren Strain said the bill allows the Highway Patrol and MDOT to directly address highway memorials.
“We wouldn’t have to go through any process to have these officers memorialized should, God forbid, we have another officer die in the line of duty,” Strain said. “It makes everything more efficient and shows support from the members of the Legislature for these troopers’ families and for law enforcement.”
Thirty-two Highway Patrol officials have died in the line of duty since 1940. A portion of Mississippi Highway 370 was designated in 2011 for state Trooper Steve Hood, who was killed during a chase in 2009.
MDOT officials said the cost of the signs depends on their size and other expenses such as labor. It takes two signs — one at each end of the roadway or bridge.
Some road designations approved by lawmakers this year are:
— A segment of Mississippi Highway 29 in Ellisville for Wyonie “Sonny” Patterson, a retired officer with the Ellisville Police Department and Jones Junior College Police Department. He died in 2012.
— A bridge on Mississippi Highway 15 for state Rep. Billy Bowles, D-Houston. Bowles served 20 years in the Mississippi House, and died in 2012.
— A segment of Mississippi Highway 63 in Greene County for state Sen. George Cecil McLeod Jr., D-Leakesville, who died in 2011.
— A segment of U.S. Highway 184 in Lawrence County as “Lawrence County Veterans Highway.”
— A flyover bridge in Adams County as the “Veterans Memorial Bridge.”
— A section of Mississippi Highways 25 and 15 in Louisville as the “Blue Star Memorial Highway” honoring members of the Armed Forces.
— A segment of Mississippi Highway 6 in Lee County as “Military Order of the Purple Heart Highway.”
— A segment of Mississippi Highway in Lamar County for Tyler R. Kilsby and Leon Sims, two MDOT employees who were killed in 2010 while working on the road.
— A segment of Mississippi Highway 590 in Jones County for Carlos “Coach” McDaniel, recreation director and professor at Jones County Junior College for 32 years. He died in 1999.
— A segment of Mississippi Highway 4 in Prentiss County for Marine Sgt. Jonathan W. Lambert, who died in 2003 from injuries suffered in a Humvee accident in southern Iraq.
— A portion of Interstate 59 in Jones County and Laurel for Arwilla Huff Davison, a longtime Democratic activist.
— A section of Mississippi Highway 6 in Panola County, Mississippi as “Military Order of the Purple Heart Highway.”