Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 31, 2012

Interview with retiring chief spurs reflections of a powerful yea

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— As I stood beside Bluefield Police Chief Joe Wilson in the department break room asking him background questions for the story I was writing about his retirement, he politely asked me if he could take a couple bites of food before he answered. I had been on a break-neck pace through the whole day, starting at about 3 a.m. that morning and not ending until about 9 p.m. Friday night.

“Why don’t you sit down with me for a few minutes?” Joe Wilson asked. I responded by sitting down in the break room table. It had been more than 10 years since I sat at that table, but that was under different circumstances. I had stopped at the police station one morning on my way to work and asked if anyone there knew about a murder in town the night before.

I was quizzed about what I knew about the murder, but I didn’t really know anything about it except for what I had heard on my way to work that morning. My return visit to the break room last week when I sat and talked with Chief Wilson was dramatically different.

“It seems to me that we had this conversation a couple of years ago, and I said back then that when I retired, I just wanted to fade into the shadows.” Chief Wilson said after finishing a few bites of food. Just for a moment, several memories flashed through my mind. “Too late for that,” I responded.

I have known Chief Wilson almost all of his career, and he has always had a calming nature about him that had been a benefit to me and others around him. On that particular afternoon, I was already exhausted from performing at the Community Christmas Tree party at the city auditorium. By the time I sat down beside the chief, I knew I had a lot more to do that night and over the next few days before I could relax again. In that brief moment, I reflected on what I had been up to during the 23 years that I had known Joe and I chuckled quietly to myself.

Today is a cool day. This is my youngest daughter Coleen’s birthday. She’s a strong-willed person, not at all like me and then, a lot like me. She has absolute love for her husband and two sons — my grandsons Josh and Willie — and she’s never shy about speaking her mind and trying to make a difference. We’ve had our differences over the years, but she entered the world a few hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Denver Broncos on their way to winning Super Bowl XIII. Through it all, we’ve always had football. She gets it.

Anyway, thinking about Joe Wilson prompted me to reflect on the year that will come to a close today. I have been blessed to observe God’s handiwork in scores of beautiful sunrises. I have known the joy of creating beautiful music and I have suffered unrelenting pain for the loss of someone I have loved. I have seen the beauty of God’s work in the face of true friends and I have seen what follows in the aftermath of hate.

Friday evening, June 29, was as hot as I can recall in these parts. I have felt the oppressive heat of 110-plus temperatures in the south, but that afternoon seemed hotter. The story that I followed that day changed directions several times. There was a big concert in town. Fans attending the concert were being treated for heat-related maladies in the home team locker room at Mitchell Stadium.

The music was great, but as Lee Brice was on stage, concert promoters started lowering screens and securing concert towers. The sky was clear, but my friends with the Bluefield Rescue Squad were telling me a big storm was on the way. As the wind started whipping around, I left the concert venue to write the first of the two stories I was supposed to write that night.

The storm ripped through the city a few minutes after I got inside. Power flickered on and off, but I kept rebooting and got my heat-wave story done. I couldn’t see what was going on around me, but I know I felt God’s power that night. I was thankful that He granted me the peace to write my story and the skill to return to the uncertainty of the concert venue. Joe Wilson was sitting in his vehicle keeping the peace. We talked for about 10 minutes as I got my second story.

The next morning — June 30 — I saw and felt God’s power too as I watched Erik Robinson of the Second Chance Learning Center stacking chairs. It seemed like a monumental task, but he worked on. I didn’t take notes or pictures. I took off my shirt and worked beside Erik. It was a hot-hot-hot day, but it was pretty cool watching people join together to do a job. I felt absolutely surrounded by God that morning and I smiled at what I saw. The year 2012 was a truly powerful year.

Bill Archer is senior editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at