Biloxi VA honors civil rights-era Veteran

In 1964, Coast Guard veteran Cannie Lee Cody was the lead investigator in the murder of Johnnie Mae Chappell, a 34-year-old black woman, wife and mother of ten.

This was in Duval County, Jacksonville, Florida.

Director Bryan C. Matthews presents Cody with a Challenge Coin during the ceremony at Biloxi VA Medical Center.

Cody found and arrested the four men charged with murder. Only one was convicted of manslaughter and only served three years in prison.

With Cody investigating the case further, he was released from the Duval County Sheriff’s office. Despite his release, he persevered with the investigation. He published a book in 2011 in which he unsuccessfully called on politicians to take legal action over what he called corruption in the unsolved case.

Cody (pictured above) was recently recognized for his actions at a ceremony in the Gulf Coast Veterans Health System in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The murdered woman’s son spoke at a ceremony

Johnnie Mae Chappell’s youngest son Shelton was there addressing Cody:

“You have been determined to fill your life by helping those in need, and you have suffered ridicule and job loss for helping others. You were downgraded and then fired for stabbing the hornet’s nest of my mother’s murder.

Sister Stephanie Page-McClure tearfully explains the impact Lee Cody’s story had on her during the historic impact celebration.

“You endured death threats because you were a law enforcement officer who wanted to be fair to everyone, not just those who looked like you. In all of the ridiculous cases you have faced, you have been ready to help me and my family in any way you can and for that I say thank you. “

Bryan C. Matthews, Director of Health Systems, added, “He didn’t see a race at a time when our nation did this. He devoted decades to ensuring that the murdered wife and mother of ten children would not be forgotten.

“His tireless efforts represent the good of our nation and that of our armed forces in the United States. His selfless commitment to the pursuit of justice, often in the face of adversity, is an example of what our veterans can do. “

The congressman later worked in the same sheriff’s office

Congressman John Rutherford (R-Fla.), Also a veteran of the Duval County Sheriff’s Office who serves after Cody, said at the ceremony that Cody’s persistence has continued to affect the office.

“The impact this gentleman has had is historic,” Rutherford said. “Lee Cody has been inspired for generations to do what he has done during that time. This shift between where we have been and where we are is significant.

“You have inspired me for several years. Thank you for all you have done for justice, for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office and the Chappell family. “

“I am forever changed because I know his story.”

Cody’s story came to light during a visit to nurse Stephanie Page-McClure of Biloxi, VA.

“It touched my heart and I am changed forever because I know its story,” said McClure. “Cody has tried for decades to make sure justice is upheld and he has met with Chappell’s family members to instill a sense of closure.

“We honor him not only for his service to our country, but also for his continued efforts and service to the American ideal of inclusion and equality.”

The Biloxi VA Medical Center and the Joint Ambulatory Care Center (JACC) in Pensacola, Florida are part of the GCVHCS. So are the Mobile, Alabama; and clinics in Eglin and Panama City, Florida, VA. GCVHCS is headquartered in Biloxi, Mississippi, and provides a variety of outpatient medical services to more than 70,000 veterans.

Bruce Cummins is a public affairs specialist for the Gulf Coast Veterans Health System.

Comments are closed.