A look at Johnny Mack Brown, interim Greenville County sheriff

Johnny Mack Brown (file/FOX Carolina)

Johnny Mack Brown, appointed interim Greenville County Sheriff on Tuesday, is no stranger to leading the county's law enforcement.

The South Carolina Governor named Brown the interim sheriff after suspending Will Lewis, who was indicted by a grand jury.

Brown was elected as Greenville County sheriff in 1976 and took office in 1977 where he served six terms. Brown later retired in 2001 and became a U.S. Marshal after being nominated Pres. George W. Bush.

After his announcement of retirement, Brown said he spent his time in office trying to be a sheriff "to everybody, not just Democrats or Republicans."

"If I've left any legacy at all, I hope I've left an office of integrity," he said. "I've fought the good fight, I finished and I kept the faith."

Brown was sheriff during multiple high-profile cases in Greenville County, including the death of Deputy Marcus Whitfield. Whitfield was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1999 while trying to break up a fight outside a Waffle House restaurant. Brown said Whitfield's death played a role in his decision to retire.

"The death of Marcus Whitfield, the first death that I've had as a sheriff by a violent confrontation, played a large role in my decision," Brown said.

The gunman who killed Whitfield was later convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

Brown established the Greenville County Sheriff's Foundation in 1984, which receives contributions and raises funds to support the agency. He also created the Greenville County Sheriff's Office Scholarship Foundation. Crime Stoppers has honored Brown for his work.

In an interview in November 2017, Brown said he would urge Lewis to step aside while the lawsuit against him was pending.

"I think he's really put a cloud over the sheriff's office and his people and they can't do their job with a distraction," Brown said. "They need to be concentrating on what they're doing and I think this is a distraction to them.”

Brown said morale at the agency seemed to be low following the allegations made against Lewis.

"I think he would do the citizens of Greenville County and the Sheriff's Office a good deed if he would just step aside until all this is over," Brown said.

Brown will begin work at the Greenville County Sheriff's Office immediately. Lewis has been suspended until he is acquitted or convicted on charges of misconduct in office and obstruction of justice.

As Brown arrived at the Law Enforcement Center on Monday afternoon for work, he said it felt like coming home. He said he is pleased to be working with the men and women of the Sheriff's Office again and hopes to foster a positive atmosphere and morale.

"This will always be a part of me," he said. "I'm glad to be back home."

On Wednesday, Brown said he won't run for office is a special election is held in the event of a vacancy in the Greenville County sheriff's position.

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office issued the following statement after Brown's swearing-in:Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown has been sworn in as Sheriff of Greenville County. He remains dedicated to serving the community we live in, as he did for 24 years as the Sheriff, from 1977-2001.

The mission and vision of the GCSO remains the same: to defend the preservation of life, property and civil liberties within the context of legitimate state and county law enforcement policies, and to establish an atmosphere of trust and cooperation among our law enforcement officials and the citizens they serve, through legitimate policing which consistently upholds ethics, integrity, and transparency.

We stand ready to serve everyone in the community in a manner that upholds the values of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and every deputy serving at this agency. We remain honored and proud to serve our citizens.

The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the indictments brought forth against Will Lewis and we respectfully ask that any and all requests pertaining to the matter be sent to Will Lewis’ attorney, Wally Fayssoux.READ MORE: Governor suspends Greenville County sheriff after indictment

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