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Prayer and promises: Sheriff fulfills mother’s wish, graduates from JSU with honors

(Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

Travis Patten is the youngest and first Black sheriff elected for Adams County in Natchez, Mississippi. Today he graduated from Jackson State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in criminal justice. He plans to pursue his master’s degree in criminal justice from Jackson State University next. (Charles A. Smith/JSU University Communications)

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Travis Patten is a man dedicated to getting things done for the people he loves and serves. The youngest and first Black sheriff elected for Adams County in Natchez, Mississippi; Patten is all about promises.

On Friday, Dec. 9, the 43-year-old sheriff fulfilled another promise, graduating magna cum laude from Jackson State University with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice.

Patten explains that his mother, Cynthia Barfield, was big on growth and education.

“My mom has always said, ‘Son, there’s always room for improvement.’ She’s always talked about how important it is to have a quality education so that nobody can ever say that you’re not qualified for holding any positions, obtaining a job, or opening a business,” he said.

In 2015, Patten’s mother was battling cancer and urging the then 36-year-old U.S. Navy vet and sheriff candidate to attend college. Even if he won the election, Patten said his mother didn’t want him to stop there.

Travis Patten Graduation

Travis Patten and his late mother Cynthia Barfield. (Photo Special to JSU)

So he enrolled at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in 2016, eventually receiving an associate’s degree in criminal justice.

“I made a promise to her that I would get my education and attain my degree from college,” he said.

Unfortunately, his mother passed on Sept. 25 that same year, shortly after Patten was sworn into office as sheriff.

Patten’s mother dropped out of school in the 10th grade but eventually worked to receive her GED and a master’s degree.

“She wanted me to further my education. She saw God and education as a way of having a better quality of life for herself and her kids,” he said.

Four years ago, Patten acted upon another of his mother’s wishes and began his journey as a student in the JSUOnline program.

Today, he walked across the stage with honors fulfilling that commitment. Although Patten has over 20 years of law enforcement experience, his JSU degree has provided him with new tools and perspectives to bring to his community and law enforcement staff.

“It helped me understand race relations and how things are evolving. People all over the country have this disdain for law enforcement and, in our community, I want it to be the complete opposite,” he explained. “I want our community to be a beacon of hope and to show how a community can thrive if law enforcement and the community work together. To work together, you have to understand people’s backgrounds, and getting this degree has helped me learn that on a whole new level.”

Patten is husband to Brittney West-Patten and father to Travis Patten, Jr., Micela Patten, and Anthony West. He says graduating from the HBCU is for his kids, wife, and the rest of his family, who served as a major support system along the way.

“It was definitely a balancing act for me over the last four years, and I can certainly tell anybody that it can be done. My family played a big role in that, and not just my wife and kids. I’m talking about all of my family,” Patten said. “They really stepped up because they knew that I made a promise that I was going to get this done, and for me to do it, I had to find four to six hours a day to do assignments and study for exams that were coming up.”

As a sheriff “on the clock 24 hours a day,” Patten was tasked with being involved in community events and helping solve crimes, all while being a student. For Patten, that sometimes meant missing his children’s programs and events.

“Not only did I sacrifice. They sacrificed as well. Time management, family support, and just having the attitude that failure would not overtake me if my determination to succeed was strong enough. That’s what I’ve lived by throughout this entire time and, of course, a lot of praying,” said Patten. “I don’t feel like I could have accomplished anything if I didn’t put God first in this.”

Patten says this isn’t the end, but, for a moment, he can say, “promise made, promise kept.”