Road named after slain park ranger - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Road named after slain park ranger

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

By Doug Walker – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Twenty years ago, Ocean Springs park ranger Robert McGhee was gunned down in the line of duty, shot and killed by two prison escapees from Florida. Friday, a section of road that McGhee traveled every day in the national park was re-named in his memory. 

It was a ceremony filled with both joy, and tears, as the life of the man everyone called "Ranger Bob" was remembered, and his service to his country was honored

"Such a recognition in this public venue is both a fitting and appropriate means to commemorate the life of park ranger Robert McGhee," Park Superintendent Daniel Brown said. 

The ceremony was attended by dozens of family members, police officers and friends.  According to his son-in-law J.D. Owens, McGhee was a law enforcement officer until the end.

"Every time they put on the badge, put on the uniform, they are tempting fate, just as Bob did every day he put on that uniform," Owens said. 

The pain of their loss was etched into the faces of family members as their lost loved one was paid tribute after tribute.  The keys of the city were handed over to the family, and emotions flowed from his widow, Linda McGhee Cannon. 

"The night before he was killed, we drove through the park," Cannon remembered. "We were with our grandson, who was only 8-months-old at the time. He said, 'You know, I was the luckiest person in the world when I got this job.'"

Then the moment everyone was waiting for, a very rare honor within the national park system, the unveiling of the street sign in his name.   

During Friday's ceremony, the word "bittersweet" was used time and again. Sweet because of the joy of the road being named in honor of Robert McGhee.  Bitter because the pain of death is still felt by the family. 

"I re-lived that morning all over again, which was a tragic morning for me. The worst of my entire life," McGhee's daughter, Karla Owens, said. "But at the same time, Dad was so deserving of this."

McGhee had been a park ranger for nine years at the time of his death.  Before that, he served in the Navy as a Seabee, with two tours of duty in Vietnam before retiring. 

Also, it's important to note that McGhee did not die in vain.  After he was killed, federal law was changed to allow for capital punishment of anyone accused of murdering a park ranger.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved

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