CAMERON — The walls of the Milam County Law Library resonated with songs and prayers Tuesday night as dozens gathered to honor the lives of those who died to violent crime and defending the country.
The 23rd annual Tree of Angels ceremony, hosted by Milam County District Attorney Bill Torrey, featured pastors from the region along with law enforcement officials who regaled those in attendance with hymns and words of wisdom and encouragement for those left behind.
“I pray that you will surrender your feelings and emotions to our heavenly Father,” Rockdale Rising Star Baptist Church Pastor Royal Johnson said. “I pray that he will move in your heart to forgive and let it go. Don’t let go of the memory of your loved one but just forgive.”
Milam County First Assistant District Attorney Brian Price emceed the ceremony.
“We want to let the families and loved ones know that we’re still here for them and support them even when the cases are over,” he said. “Even years later, we want them to know that we are here for them.”
Members of the American Legion Post No. 9 read names of service members killed in action and placed angels in their honor.
Milam County Sheriff Mike Clore read the poem “Until We Meet Again.”
“Those special memories of you will always bring a smile,” Clore read. “If only I could have you back just for a while. Then we could sit and talk again, just like we used to do. The fact that you’re no longer here will always cause me pain. But you’re forever in my heart until we meet again.”
Pooh Williams attended the event to honor her brother Courtney, who was fatally shot in 2017.
“We didn’t come last year, but we have been coming since this happened,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of pain behind it, but we still feel like he’s here with us, and we will see him one day.”
Her brother’s killer, Alvin Melton of Cameron, is currently serving a 25-year sentence for the slaying. Melton was sentenced in 2019.
Donna Winkler went to the ceremony to pay tribute to 2-year-old Alexandria Hill that was killed in 2013 by her foster parents.
“My sister killed that baby, and I loved that child to death,” she said. “I’m still very angry and hurt over this. It helps me heal to honor a 2-year-old baby that didn’t do anything.”
Sherill Small of Rockdale was convicted for the death and sentenced to life in prison in 2014. Small died of colon cancer while in prison in 2016.
Rockdale Police Chief Jerry Meadows attended the event. He and two of his officers silently stood in the back, remembering the victims of those they arrested.
“I think it’s important to provide just one more chance for the victims to be heard, to be noticed, and to be remembered,” he said. “Society in general moves on. These families and victims, they relive that day after day. It’s important for them to know that we remember those victims.”
Cameron Grove Baptist Church Faye Johnson closed the ceremony with a prayer.
“Lord, we thank you for what has transpired here tonight, God,” she said. “We thank you for blessing the work of the hands of that set out to bring this to pass. We want to remember the loved ones of the victims’ Lord Jesus. We ask that you continue to give them peace.”