SENATOBIA - Praise and condolences keep coming in as folks in some parts of the Mississippi delta mourn the passing over the weekend of 17th Circuit Court District Attorney John Champion.
Champion had served the district since 1993 first as an assistant and later as its top prosecutor in 2001.
Southaven Alderman Charlie Hoots, at the top of the Delta, Called Champion "one of the best DA's in the state of Mississippi." Former Panola County Sheriff's Deputy and now Supervisor Earl Burdette called him a "Champion of the victims". Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, Jay Hale had this to say about his former boss; "John Champion spent nearly 30 years in the District Attorney’s Office serving the 17th Circuit Court District. John was an amazing boss and an even better friend. John’s care and concern for all his employees made it a joy to work for him. He thankfully took a chance on me as a young attorney, and I owe my career to him. John was loved by so many, and he will certainly be missed."
He prosecuted the region's biggest crimes and often won convictions. He once confided to a reporter that he had a particular affinity for the rural counties of his jurisdiction, Tallahatchie, Panola and Yalobusha, where he made great friends inside and outside the courthouse.
Friends say he died of natural causes at his home in Senatobia Sunday morning.
In a telephone interview with Mississippi Public Broadcasting several years ago, he explained why he felt so strongly about his work.
"We're put into office to protect our victims, and our victims have the right to go to court, just like our defendants do. And if our victims don't get their day in court that's just not fair that's not the way our system was meant to be. Defense is defendant-oriented right now, and if our folks can't go to court to protect our victims it becomes an issue. And we need to be able to go to court to protect our victims as well as prosecute those who have committed these crimes."
Champion was just 61. The funeral will be Friday, Sept. 9, at 11 a.m. at Oxford-University United Methodist Church with Rev. Chris McAlilly officiating. Burial will follow in Oxford Memorial Cemetery.
Visitation will be held Thursday, Sept. 8, from 3 to 7 p.m. in West Hall at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford and again prior to the service on Friday, beginning at 10 a.m. at the church.
Expressions of sympathy or memorial contributions in John’s memory may be made to American Stroke Foundation, 6405 Metcalf Avenue, Suite 214, Overland Park, KS 66202 or online at https://americanstroke.org/donate/, or to American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 42040, Oklahoma City, OK 73123 or online at https://www.cancer.org/.