A former Shelbyville Central High athlete turned soldier is back home after concluding a long career in law enforcement. James Lanier just moved into a new Shelbyville home after retiring from the …
A former Shelbyville Central High athlete turned soldier is back home after concluding a long career in law enforcement. James Lanier just moved into a new Shelbyville home after retiring from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office. Lanier worked as a Shelbyville police officer for several years before going to White House, Tennessee, and Wilson County.
Lanier has served in three of the four branches of the military. He was in the U.S. Marines for 15 years, followed by the Army for 10 years and the Air Force for 3 years. Part of his Marines duty involved high-level intelligence work, while he was a military police officer in the Army and Air Force. Many of his years were in the Reserves as he worked as a civilian police officer at the same time.
Lanier was a standout tennis player at Shelbyville Central High School, where he graduated in 1976. He earned a tennis scholarship to what was then Martin Methodist College (now Tennessee Southern.)
“I spent 2 years there [Martin was then a junior college] and was then recruited by Lincoln Memorial University, where I got a degree in business management, then joined the Marines.” Why the Marines?
“I wanted to get into the toughest branch of the military,” Lanier said, citing a continuing quest to improve himself.
Lanier started in the infantry, eventually being sent to Hawaii, then was promoted to positions as a marksman instructor, drill instructor and eventually as a mainland communications specialist, where he held a Top Secret security clearance.
“I was in every conflict during those years – Beirut, Guadalcanal, Panama Canal, Grenada, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, three tours in Iraq,” Lanier said.
Following Lanier’s time in the Marines, he transferred to the Army.
“The military was downsizing and I received a separation offer from the Marines,” Lanier said. “I still wanted to be in the military.”
Lanier’s Army service included police work in the reserves, at a time when he was back in Tennessee and entering his civilian career.
“The Army was different. Each branch of the military is different,” Lanier said.
Lanier’s Air Force duty involved guarding C-130 military aircraft in Nashville.
“I worked a2-10 p.m. police shift, then from 11 p.m.-all night for the Air Force.”
Around 1990, with several career possibilities possible, Lanier returned to Shelbyville. He’d live in California, where he’d been stationed 5 years, for 6 months as a civilian, hoping to find a position in law enforcement.
“I hadn’t been home an hour when I ran across a friend who was on the Shelbyville Police Department,” Lanier said.
“He talked to me about becoming a police officer.”
The friend talked to then-Chief Wayne Haithcote, who was also interested in hiring Lanier. That led to a job interview.
“He hired me the same day,” Lanier said. “He knew me, all my family, my brothers and sisters, it seemed like he knew everybody.”
Lanier was a Shelbyville officer from 1990-95 before accepting a much higher-paying position at White House.
“I hadn’t thought about leaving Shelbyville,” Lanier said. “I was sent to Advanced Officer Survivor School in White House. The chief there offered me a better paying job.”
That White House chief told Lanier he’d noticed the level of Lanier’s alertness and intensity during the school, which required and taught skills similar to those on the “Survivor” TV show but on a much smaller scale.
Those skills included the ability to survive on one’s own for several days. “I wasn’t scared of bugs, snakes, nothing like that,” Lanier said.
Lanier considered the job offer and chose to make the move.
“I knew everybody, growing up here,” Lanier said. “I got tired of seeing their faces and wanted to venture out and see people I didn’t know. I started at White House on patrol and was promoted to corporal in 6 months, and became a field training officer. Itrained a lot of officers from that point.”
After 4 years at White House, Lanier joined Wilson County, where he was a patrol lieutenant a this retirement. “I’m proud of what I’ve done,” Lanier said. “I was proud to serve my country and very proud to serve the public.”
Lanier learned a lot about life over the years and passed it on to his younger trainees.
“I first thought I could change the world. You can’t do it,” Lanier said. “I’ve told my guys you can’t do everything. Don’t wear yourself out.”
Military and police awards adorn the walls of Lanier’s new home.
“I walk by, see them on the wall, sometimes I stare them and can’t believe I did all that,” Lanier said. “I’m glad to be home and looking forward to a happy, peaceful life.
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