PHOTO: University Police Chief Jeffrey Van Slyke, left, holds the hand of Lisa Langley as they watch the casket of Langley's husband being carried to the hearse Wednesday. (Deste Lee)
By Errol Castens
Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – Robert Michael “Robbie” Langley, a University of Mississippi police officer killed after a traffic stop went desperately wrong early on Saturday morning, was eulogized Wednesday by the Rev. Kevin Crofford as “a good man” who became “God’s man.”
Langley’s flag-draped casket lay center stage during the more than hour-long celebration of his life at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the Ole Miss campus. Several hundred fellow officers and military personnel from all over Mississippi and parts of several surrounding states crowded into row upon row of seats, their dress uniforms adding a mottling of color to the somber occasion.
The Rev. Barry Male, Langley’s youth pastor from more than a decade ago, recalled how Langley, a state champion athlete and a popular personality among his peers, often befriended less popular peers.
“He could have been the center of attention,” Male said. “It was his nature to make others the center of his attention.”
University Police Chief Jeffrey Van Slyke recalled when he first met Langley.
“He shared with me his principles in terms of making a difference in students’ lives … to teach students,” Van Slyke said. “This is one man who lived what he believed and set the standard for others to live by.”
One of the most emotional presentations was a video Langley himself had created from photos and video of his National Guard unit’s 14-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. Given to his wife upon his return, it ended with him staring into the camera and telling his wife, “I love you.”
Crofford assured more than 100 family members at the funeral that while Langley’s death seems a tragedy for those left behind, because his faith assured him of a joyous eternity, “Robert was having his best moment in life.”
A mile-long procession set off by hundreds of blue strobe lights eased down Ford Boulevard to Highway 6 and toward Langley’s Panola County burial site.
Full military honors
At Forrest Memorial Park, as a chilly rain fell on the throng, Crofford reminded mourners of the hope that Langley professed.
During the full military honor, a bugler sounded “Taps,” a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace,” an honor guard offered a 21-gun salute, and a brace of helicopters from the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office performed a flyover of the site.
At the end, though, honors and reminders could not fill the void Langley’s death had left.
When Van Slyke presented Lisa Langley with the neatly folded flag from her husband’s coffin, she sobbed quietly for several minutes, her weeping engendering a near-flood of tears among those within earshot.
Perhaps the most consoling words of the day had come from Van Slyke during the funeral when he spoke of the good that might come from Robert Langley’s death in terms of changed lives.
He referred to Genesis 50:20, in which Joseph reassured the brothers who had once betrayed him: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
Contact Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org