‘Treasure to the community’ Mr. Pete dies at 91

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Robert Byrd — better known to the people of Brookhaven as “Mr. Pete” — has been a local legend in Brookhaven for decades. Byrd died Monday, Aug. 2, at the age of 91.

Mr. Pete was a fixture around town, often seen sitting on a bench outside Brookhaven Barber Shop, in Janie’s Bakery or in the deli of Piggly Wiggly on West Monticello Street. His smiling face greeted everyone before his voiced greetings.

“I love Brookhaven. It’s a pretty good town,” Byrd said in 2014. “I pretty much know everyone in town.”

Byrd never married nor had children, but had plenty of family — in addition to his sister’s children and grandchildren, many people in the community considered Mr. Pete part of their families, and he thought of many in the same way.

From the 1960s when he moved to Brookhaven with his mother, he lived on Minnesota Street in the same house. Byrd had some physical difficulties that caused him to walk with a cane or ride in a motorized wheelchair. He worked for a tailor until he had a heart attack that left him unable to work.

In 2016, Mayor Joe Cox presented Byrd with a key to city.

“He’s standing up tall and walking straight today,” Cox said. “He always had a smile on his face. He was a Brookhaven icon and an inspiration to all.”

Trustmark National Bank’s Brookhaven CEO, Stan Foster, was friends with Mr. Pete for more than two decades.

“As bad as we hate to see him go, isn’t it great to know he’s where he is and he’s healed?” Foster said.

Foster described his friend as “a friend to everybody,” and the kind of man who made an impact just by his presence.

“I never visited with him that I didn’t feel better as a result of it. He just uplifted you, he was positive. I could be walking into the bank or leaving the bank and he’d be sitting over at Janie’s and holler at me and whatever I had going on he made me feel better,” Foster said. “He was a great inspiration to me. He was a positive guy and he reflected that in his attitude, in the way he talked and in the way he talked about people. “

Byrd’s pastor, the Rev. Larry Jointer of St. James Missionary Baptist Church, said he was a man who would not quit.

“Pete was committed to doing things Pete’s way. He was a person who didn’t quit. Regardless of his circumstances (or) his condition, he didn’t quit,” Jointer said. “He loved being around people. He loved his city. He loved his community. He loved his church and he had a love for the Lord.”

Jointer said Byrd was the only person he would allow to stand and speak in the church regardless of what was going on because he was that committed to the church.

“We loved Pete and we’re going to miss him. I’m quite sure he’s going to be missed by a lot of people here in Brookhaven,” Jointer said. “If you stayed in Brookhaven any length of time, you were going to be familiar with Pete because he was going to find out who you were. We’re going to miss him, the church will miss him and the city will miss him. We’ll keep his family lifted in prayer.”

Rev. Jointer said Mr. Pete made him promise that when the day of his death came, his pastor would have one more parade with him through town.

“So that’s what we’re going to do,” Jointer said.

Arrangements will be announced at a later date.

“Of all the people who could have complained I never heard him complain,” Foster said. “I have a picture in my office that (artist and doctor) Kim Sessums drew of him. Whenever I want to complain I just look at that picture. He was one of a kind. There won’t be another like him.”

“He was a man of character and integrity,” Foster said. “He was a treasure to this community.”