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Service of slain Wynne Unit officer saluted during memorial ceremony

Correctional Officers standing at attention while trumpeteer plays.
Correctional officers salute while Taps is played during the Ninth Annual Fallen Officers' Memorial Ceremony in Huntsville on May 5.

Photo by David Nunnelee

A bell tolled four times and 21 shots rang out as slain Wynne Unit Field Officer Susan Canfield was saluted by her co-workers and agency during the Ninth Annual Fallen Correctional Officers’ Memorial Ceremony held on May 5 at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville.Canfield died September 24, 2007 while attempting to stop an escape by two offenders who were soon recaptured. The seven-year veteran was the 50th Texas correctional employee to die in the line of duty since 1882.

“To her last moment of life, she was the epitome of devotion and service to this agency,” said Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Oliver Bell in tribute to Canfield.

A procession of Canfield’s fellow field officers from the Wynne Unit and throughout the region opened the ceremony that included the reading of a praiseful poem written by Wynne Unit CO V James Murray; Wynne Unit wardens Chis Bell, Lonny Johnson, and Kelly Strong placed a memorial wreath. Afterwards, shell casings from the 21-gun salute fired in honor of Canfield were presented to her husband, Charles Canfield, and to her daughter, Kara Holub. Outside, under rainy skies that forced the ceremony indoors, a riderless black horse stood in symbolic tribute to Canfield and eight other correctional employees from across the country who died in the line of duty during the past year and whose names were read during a somber roll call.

“This year we have to do something that none of us enjoys,” TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston said to an overflow audience of more than 200. “Today, we are adding the name of Susan Canfield to the roll call of fallen correctional staff. Officer Canfield exhibited the kind of courage that has left a lasting impression on her friends and family, her co-workers, and on people she never even met. She is missed by all.”

Executive Director Livingston and Chairman Bell also praised the service of all TDCJ correctional staff members.

“The courage and commitment by our correctional staff is remarkable,” Livingston said. “It is remarkable, in part, because of its durability. Our staff demonstrates it every hour of every day, not just once in a while. It’s also remarkable because of its reach. We see it everywhere. We see it in Dalhart, in Beaumont, New Boston, El Paso, and, indeed, right here in Huntsville. It is ironic that because our correctional staff exhibits this kind of courage and commitment in such a durable and extensive way that it can sometimes be missed or overlooked. We will not overlook it. We recognize it and salute it.”

Also attending the ceremony were family members of Minnie R. Houston, who was killed by an offender at the Ellis Unit near Huntsville in June 1985. In memory of Officer Canfield, Chairman Bell said a 50th live oak tree would soon be added to those that have been planted around the TDCJ Sesquicentennial Plaza in recent years in remembrance of the agency’s fallen employees.

“Now, and in years to come, family members, friends, and TDCJ employees will walk under those majestic oaks outside,” he said. “They will remember, they will reflect, and they will respect the individuals honored for the sacrifice they have made to protect the citizens of Texas. Their lives had a purpose, and they left a mark. Like those trees, the individuals honored today will have an everlasting effect on the landscape of our lives and this agency.”

The agency’s memorial ceremony is held each May during National Correctional Officers Week. Individual TDCJ units throughout the state held similar ceremonies during the week.

Bell appointed TBCJ chairman; Lubbock attorney fills vacancy

Governor Rick Perry, in April, appointed sitting Texas Board of Criminal Justice (TBCJ) member Oliver J. Bell of Austin as chairman. He replaces Christina Melton Crain of Dallas, whose position on the nine-member board governing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was filled by Lubbock attorney J. David Nelson.

Bell was appointed to the TBCJ in February 2004 and has served as chairman of the board’s Education and Human Resources committees. He has also served as a member of its Health Care, Correctional Institutions, Legal, Business and Financial Operations, and Victim Services committees. Bell founded and serves as chief executive officer of Oliver J. Bell & Associations, Inc., a human resources and labor relations consulting firm in Austin. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and formerly served as an Army officer in Europe. (see related story)

Nelson is a partner in the law firm of Nelson & Nelson, which handles general civil practice, trials, casualty insurance, probate, corporation real estate, banking, and commercial law matters. He is a graduate of Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University School of Law. Nelson’s term on the board expires Feb. 1, 2013.

A Dallas attorney and mediator, Crain was appointed to the TBCJ in April 2001. She was named chairman in February 2003 and went on to spearhead the creation of TDCJ’s GO KIDS program, which works to support children who have at least one parent incarcerated.

“As I bid farewell, I want to express my deepest gratitude and respect to each of you,” Crain said in a departing message. “It has truly been an honor to serve with the outstanding leadership of this agency and the thousands of remarkable, devoted employees that make up the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. You should be proud of what you do for the citizens of Texas. You have taught me so much, and I will forever be grateful for the experience.”

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