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Family, friends reflect on East Texas lawman's life at memorial service

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
July 2, 2012 at 11 p.m.

KILGORE - "He was a wonderful, wonderful man, a fantastic cop and a child of God."

Michael Ferguson's words describing his brother were echoed over and over Monday in Kilgore, where about 1,500 people gathered at Dodson Auditorium on the Kilgore College campus to celebrate the life of Leslie N. Ferguson II.

The longtime instructor at the college's East Texas Police Academy died Wednesday in an off-duty motorcycle-car crash at Interstate 20 and Texas 31.

Friends, families, co-workers and law enforcement officers came from near and far to remember a life that had touched so many.

"This is a celebration of Les Ferguson and I will not let it go down any other way," said Brian Ruthven, director of East Texas Police Academy.

Much more than co-workers, the two men forged a close relationship that spanned 32 years in the classroom, on the highway riding motorcycles, and on the golf course.

Ruthven credited Ferguson for being a true friend during his own dark hours.

Eighteen months ago when Ruthven was diagnosed with cancer, it was Ferguson who helped him through the trying time. During recovery, he said, Ferguson called each day to spur his friend on, urging him to get up, get out of bed and go to work, if for only a couple of hours every day.

"I know he is in heaven right now, and I know if they have Harleys and golf, he is looking down saying 'Man, I got it made,'" Ruthven said.

Though anyone who knew Ferguson knew of his fondness for motorcycles, golf and ice cream, what he is most remembered for is his love of family and God, Ruthven said.

"He was a leader, a mentor, he led by example. He represented Christ in all that he did," the Rev. Ken Davis, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Kilgore, said of the man that had been his neighbor, and friend.

His impact on area law enforcement stretched miles, as was evidenced by the show of hands among audience members whom he had taught.

Ferguson's law enforcement career began at the age of 17 when he went to work as a deputy with the Gregg County Sheriff's Office. He was promoted to sergeant and then criminal investigator, where he ran the narcotics unit before he was assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force in Tyler.

In 1990, he was hired to teach law enforcement at Kilgore College's East Texas Police Academy, where he instructed for a little more than three decades, including summer classes this year.

"Les has trained in some capacity almost every police officer in East Texas," Kenny Ray, road captain of the Blue Knights Texas XXXIV, out of Tyler.

"He basically taught every policeman that came through that Academy. He made a huge impact on a lot of people."

Prior to the service, about 100 Blue Knight riders from all across Texas and Louisiana escorted Ferguson's family from Fellowship Baptist Church in Longview to the auditorium.

Ferguson had served as vice-president for the group.

"He promoted the Blue Knights, he loved the Blue Knights and I assure you we loved him. He brought a servants attitude, despite being a natural leader," Richard Cashell, president of the Tyler Blue Knights chapter, said.

Those who knew and loved him remembered a fine man, said David Spam, Blue Knights chaplain, as he painted a picture perfect heaven for the Harley rider.

"He's on his bike, riding the highways of heaven," Spam said. "He does not need gas and knows every stop he makes there is ice cream waiting for him."



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