Clarksdale Fire Captain Willie B. Ratliff answered his last alarm at the Clarksdale Fire Department on December 21, 2016. The 35-year veteran was two shifts away from retirement when his fellow firefighters found him dead of an apparent heart attack at the fire station.
Willie was born September 26, 1949, to the late Mark and Anna Ratliff in Money, Mississippi. Willie was a graduate of Higgins High School in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where played baseball and football for four years. He continued his education at Coahoma Community College, where he received a certificate in brick masonry. Willie also graduated from the Mississippi Law Enforcement Academy and the Mississippi Fire Academy.
Willie worked for the city of Clarksdale for more than four decades, including time at the city police department and the public works department, before joining the Clarksdale Fire Department on August 1, 1980. Willie was never sick, and no one ever remembers him missing a single shift of work. He was a role model firefighter. He was 66 years old and fought fire like he did 25 years ago. He was a mentor to the young firefighters. Generations of young men grew into seasoned firefighters with Ratliff’s instruction guiding them. Willie was a true leader, always guiding others to success, ensuring his coworkers were performing to the best of their abilities. Willie was the first and only firefighter at the Clarksdale Fire Department ever voted Fireman of the Year twice by his fellow coworkers. The Clarksdale Fire Department has created an award given each year to the firefighter who exemplifies, professionalism, dedication, and integrity as Willie did.
Willie enjoyed spending time with his family, hunting, and fishing with his brother, nephews, and friends. If Willie wasn’t at the fire station, you probably would find him on the lake. He loved to fish and was pretty good at it. Many days he would invite his coworkers to the fire station and cook dinner for them. He also enjoyed watching Denver Broncos football; they were his favorite team. Willie was always busy, but never too busy to give others a helping hand.
Left to cherish Willie’s memories are his loving wife of 43 years, Mamie Ratliff; his son, Jeremy Ratliff; and one brother, John Ratliff. Also mourning his departure are his Clarksdale firefighter brothers, many nieces and nephews, and a multitude of other relatives and friends who adored him as well.