Lake Martin boat parade honors first responders, late Ala. state trooper

Lake Martin boat parade honors first responders, late Ala. state trooper

TALLAPOOSA COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - A sea of boaters and Alabama marine police troopers paraded across Lake Martin Saturday to show their support for law enforcement and first responders.

“They should be respected. They should be honored,” said parade attendee T.J. Conwell. “And doing something like this just allows us to tip our hat to them and say ‘Hey, we see you, we notice you, we love you, we pray for you, and we’re just grateful that you’re here.’”

Leading the parade of boats was the family of late Alabama Law Enforcement Agency trooper James “J.R.” Southerland. The 28-year-old trooper died on Aug. 21 due to injuries he suffered during an off-duty motorcycle crash.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Trooper James “J.R.” Southerland died on Aug. 21 due to injuries he suffered during an off-duty motorcycle crash.
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Trooper James “J.R.” Southerland died on Aug. 21 due to injuries he suffered during an off-duty motorcycle crash. (Source: WSFA)

“His love of life and his joy and the way that he expressed himself and lived his life is something to model after,” said J.R.'s uncle Conwell.

“It’s incredibly sad to lose him at such a young age,” Conwell said. “But for our family to see that and then to honor him in this way is spectacular.”

Southerland’s family said one of his biggest pet peeves while patrolling would be when boaters left their docking lights on during the day. To honor him, every boat in the parade turned their docking lights on.

“I can imagine him if there’s a possibility for him in heaven to see this for him to go ‘Y’all, you’re killing me, turn the lights off,’” Conwell said. “So everybody in the parade’s encouraged to do that today to honor him and, I don’t know, maybe just say ‘Hey man, we see ya and we miss ya.’”

One of Southerland’s work partners, senior trooper Frank Cartwright, said Southerland is going to be missed.

“He brought a light to law enforcement and to this body of water and this job,” Cartwright said. “His whole life was dedicated to service, to his friends, his family, to the community, and we were lucky to have him as a state trooper here in Alabama.”

Southerland served with the Montgomery Police Department for seven years prior to joining the ALEA, according to his family.

Southerland leaves behind his parents, siblings, grandparents, nephews, and his “dog/daughter Dixie.”

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