Former Loudon Police Chief Johnny Lennex, the longest-serving
Loudon top officer at 22 years, was known by colleagues, friends and mentors for his poise and
Lennex died Sunday after a brief battle with cancer. He was 75.
James Webb said Lennex was a man of character, standing by his officers through thick and
Patrolman and School Resource Officer Kenny Ridings said gray was not a shade on
Lennex's color palette.
"It was either black or white with him," Ridings, whose father also
worked under Lennex, said. "He was just always good to me. He was always fair. He treated everybody
For Webb, Lennex was a mentor throughout his life, from childhood through learning
the ropes of law enforcement. Webb joined the department in 1988, a couple years prior to Lennex's
"One of my childhood heroes. Little boys they look up to police officers, or they
did whenever I was a kid anyway," Webb said, mentioning spending countless hours at his
grandmother's house located across the street from city hall where Lennex worked.
those police officers back at the time were people I grew up admiring. I think all of those police
officers that were working back at that time were what I would refer to as a childhood hero and
chief Lennex was the leader of that organization," he said.
"He was also somebody all the
police officers could look up to and say this is the kind of police officer I want to be. He was
very firm person but I always felt like he was fair," Webb said.
It was Lennex's structure
that prepared Webb for his current role.
"His rules and regulations that were laid out were
simple and he told you what he expected of you, and as long as you did the job the way he told you
to do it you didn't have any problems with him," Webb said. "He wouldn't come hard on you if you
made a mistake necessarily, because everyone makes mistakes, but if you did something dumb and out
of line he corrected you and you learned a lesson from it."
The way Lennex corrected his
"Nothing more to what we refer to nowadays as a verbal warning," Webb said with a
laugh. "Most everything that I remember and the stories I tell about him are the kind of things
police officers don't share outside of the shop."
Webb said it was Lennex's rules that once
landed a conviction in a Monroe County homicide. It was policy under Lennex's day for the night
shift to get personal information on anyone traveling back roads at night.
One night, two
patrol officers made their way to an old ferry landing when they noticed two men covered in blood.
The men claimed to have been slaughtering chickens.
After recording their
information, one of the officers kept a knife they had found.
"It turned up that knife was
the murder weapon," Webb said. "... They successfully prosecuted those people because the police
officers were following the rules and regulations that Chief Lennex laid out.
job we do is not necessarily popular and we can fall under criticism, but if you are enforcing the
law and protecting the public then you need to, no matter how bad the criticism is, you need to have
someone behind you and support you," Webb said. "Chief Lennex was probably the best example of
Lennex was drafted and served in Germany with the U.S. Army. After returning home, he
joined Loudon Police Department in 1962. He was promoted to chief in 1969.
After retiring in
1991, Lennex spent his days fishing and playing golf. City Recorder Stephanie Putkonen, who became
acquainted with the former chief during coffee breaks at city hall, remembers playing alongside
Lennex during a recent employee golf tournament. The game was rained out, but Putkonen said Lennex
had a competitive streak when it came to golf.
"Just golfers who love golf are competitive,"
Putkonen said. "It was a pleasure working with him the time I did. He was a good friend. He just
was, he was somebody I was glad to see when I saw him."
Lennex operated by the same sense of
fairness, whether on the golf course or on the job.
"It was probably the reason why he was so
successful and able to be the police chief for 22 years because he did what the police chief is
supposed to do," Webb said.