Adam Winstead: Bluegrass/gospel to KPD

Tom KingGrainger, Our Town Heroes

The Adam Winstead story is beyond interesting. This young man is Bean Station/Grainger County born and bred. He’s been a garbage man in Morristown and cut grass. He’s 32 and already into his second career – as a patrol officer in the West District for the Knoxville Police Department (KPD).

And what about his first career? If you’re a diehard fan of bluegrass and gospel music, really into those genres, there was a group known as “Paul Williams and The Victory Trio” that may be familiar. Winstead is a multi-talented musical guy – he sings and plays the banjo, guitar and bass. During its final 11 years of touring and recording, the youngest member of Williams’ group was Winstead, who was hired when he was just 17 and yet to graduate in the last class at the old Rutledge High School.

How did this happen? “My dad is a pastor and in 2007 he was pastoring the church that Paul’s son and four granddaughters attended. I played guitar and sang in church with his granddaughters and he was making personnel changes in his band,” Winstead said.

Paul Williams (seated) and The Victory Trio including now KPD Officer Adam Winstead (back left).

“Paul’s son mentioned me to him as maybe a new member so I was invited to his house on a Tuesday night to audition. It was very informal and more of a fun jam session, but it was actually a tryout to see if he felt like I could do what he needed. It went well and he called a few days later and offered me the spot.”

That audition led to 11 years of performing on average 100 concerts a year in 48 states, plus recording sessions and rehearsals. It was heady stuff for a kid who loved bluegrass and gospel and knew Williams was considered to be “a legend” in the business.

In 2016, the touring had slowed as Williams was nearing retirement, so Winstead did something he’d wanted to do since childhood – he became a cop for the Morristown Police Department (MPD). He juggled the two jobs until Williams retired in 2018 at 87.

He served with distinction at the MPD. Twice he was honored by Mothers Against Drunken Driving as the department’s DUI Officer of the Year. After four years there he left to join the KPD in September 2020 as part of the first group of Lateral Transfer Officers.

He brought a skillset with him to the KPD – a degree in Criminal Justice from Walters State Community College, training as a forensic technician at crime scenes, plus experience as a field training officer, SWAT Team member and as a hostage negotiator.

“I hated leaving Morristown and I really miss the officers I worked with,” he says. “But (wife) Megan and I wanted to start a family and truthfully, I make more money now at KPD,” he says. He and the former Megan Dalton married in 2013 and the family is now about to grow – they’re expecting their first child – a son – on August 21.

Leaving Morristown and working at KPD added to his daily commute. “It’s an hour each way but I relax and always keep my XM radio on the bluegrass channel,” he says.

Not long ago a University of Tennessee student was involved in her first-ever accident at the busy intersection of I-40 West and Alcoa Highway. “It was actually pretty minor but not to her,” Winstead said. “She was upset and crying. I calmed her down, walked her through the process while she waited for her parents (they live in Cookeville). I was doing what I would have done had this been my wife or daughter, to give as much help as I could offer her.”

The student’s parents thought enough of his actions to send then-KPD Chief Eve Thomas a letter expressing their appreciation for Winstead’s “kindness and empathy.”

He is approaching his seventh year of wearing the badge and the toughest thing he’s encountered was a homeless woman he had tried to help more than once or twice in Morristown. “I’ll never forget this. It was two days before Christmas in 2017 and we took a 911 call about a suspicious person. It was the homeless woman. We talked for a while and I thought I’d made some progress. She was a drug addict. I wished her a Merry Christmas.”

Then came a call the day after Christmas about a body in some woods. “We found her in a tent and she was dead, an overdose. And she was only in her late 30’s. It haunts me to this day that if I had maybe done more, she would not be dead. Maybe I should have done more, something, to save her life. It’s very sad for me.”

So, why did he decide to become a police officer after a successful music career?

“It goes back to when I was a kid. I wanted to be a cop and in the military. It comes from a place of wanting to serve. I never joined the military and there’s a part of me that regrets that,” he explained. “But I do have a real sense of service, that I owe that to my community and I take it to heart.”

So, what about this career? Is it what he expected? “It’s way more than I thought it would be, a lot more. I mean that in a good way and in some bad ways, but I will tell you that it’s the most rewarding job in the world.”

Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. Suggest future Our Town Hero stories at [email protected] or call him at 865-659-3562.


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