Kejuane Bates

Kejuane Bates

Vidalia Police Officer and local pastor Kejuane Bates died April 1 from the Coronavirus.

Bates, 36, was the first in the parish to die from the virus.

Graveside services for Bates were held Tuesday at Southwood Lodge Baptist Church cemetery with Bishop Robert Cade officiating.

Local law enforcement officials held a convoy to the graveside. A Vidalia Fire Department ladder truck displayed an American Flag over the highway during the procession.

Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill said Bates was tested for the virus on March 23.

"As soon as he was tested I had the 20 people he was in contact with take the 18-hour turnaround test," Merrill said. "And if anyone had the symptoms or was at risk, we had them quarantined."

All officers in contact with Bates tested negative, Merrill said.

Bates served in many roles in Vidalia.

He had been with the Vidalia Police Department for just under 10 years.

"Kejuane was a man of many hats," said Merrill.

He also served as a D.A.R.E. officer, School Resource Officer at Vidalia High and Vidalia Upper Elementary, interim band director at Vidalia High, pastored Forest Aid Baptist Church in Natchez and served as a volunteer football coach at Vidalia High.

Bates also served as music minister at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church and youth minister at Antioch Missionary Baptist Association.

"Everybody loved Kejuane," Merrill said. "He was one of a kind. He could do it all. He was a son, pastor mentor, husband, father and good friend. There are no words to take away the pain that our family, his family, and our community are going through right now.

“It has always been my job as chief to build morale and make everyone feel better with comforting words and trying to solve whatever problems the officers and the public may have. I wish I could do that now, but I’m lost for words of comfort, for I am hurting as well. Officer Kejaune Bates was a man of God and all I can think of is that this is God’s plan."

When he served as interim band director of the Vidalia High band,  Bates invited Alcorn State assistant band director Everest Martin and five members of the Sounds of Dyno-Mite to attend a Vidalia High band practice.

"They are working with our band, showing them how to march precision drills on the field," Bates said at the time, "I really believe the whole state needs to see the effort and enthusiasm of these young people. I believe music makes the world go around. I'm very excited for the direction of this band."

Bates added the motto, "One Band, One Sound," to the band.

"Our new name is the Pride of Vidalia Marching Band," Bates said.

 Bates coached the defensive line at Vidalia High.

"I love music and I love football," he said. "If I had to make a choice, it would be which one needs me the most. It would be about the kids."

Bates' police cruiser, VP-29, was parked at the entrance to the municipal complex through Tuesday.  Wreaths and letters to the family were left at the vehicle.

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