On Friday morning, Jackson County Sheriff Chuck Phillips sat behind his desk, talking to Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen, when he was blindsided by a surprise.
In walked Tommy Upton, in his annual trek around the square dressed as only Upton can dress, in pink from head to toe.
Upton made his way to Phillips, squeezing him tight.
Tommy Upton is a big man with a big heart, people say. Before he got to Phillips, he took part in the weekly drug court session on the courthouse square. It was likely before the day was over that he would probably go upstairs and visit district court, as he has done in prior years.
Upton does it to bring awareness to Breast Cancer Month. The idea came to him a few years ago after he read a story about a New York man doing everything he could to make his wife, who was dying of breast cancer, laugh.
There was also the time Upton was visiting his father in the hospital. He decided to take a walk.
“I wound up at the cancer unit,” said Upton. “I heard people screaming. Later, I saw a little boy peddaling a tricycle and found out from his mother he had lung cancer. I felt so awful. Cancer is just an awful disease.”
So, each October, Upton tries to bring smiles to people’s faces. This year, he is honoring his mother-in-law, Billie Sue Adams, a breast cancer survivor.
He and his wife, Trina, will continue for the next few days, walking the courthouse and around town.
Upton, a former police officer, who later worked and retired from TVA, just wants to make people happy.
“I just have a passion for people,” he said. “I’ve got a big heart and just love everybody. I hope they love me.”