Frontline Responders: Clayton Cobler

Updated: Feb. 20, 2022 at 9:02 PM CST
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - In our latest Frontline Responders, we highlight someone that’s been a first responder for years. Many know him now as sort of a last responder. We spoke with Coroner Clayton Cobler.

“It was the adrenaline, the sirens, the lights. That’s what drew your attention. That’s why you got into it,” Cobler explained. “Of course, once you start learning medicine and how to take care of people, it was very rewarding to be able to help folks.”

There’s only one Clayton Cobler. He has served Lauderdale County as an EMT, Paramedic, ambulance director, instructor and a coroner.

“The program ‘Emergency!’ had just come out and everybody wanted to be a paramedic then. I decided that’s what I wanted to be,” Cobler said.

His interests didn’t really come as a surprise. His grandfather ran a funeral home in Niagara Falls. His father, Marl Cobler Jr., was a coroner’s assistant and later became coroner of Lauderdale County before Clayton.

“My first memory is when I was about 4-years-old. I went on a coroner’s call with my dad. He told me to stay in the car and of course, being 4-years-old I didn’t,” Cobler explained. “I got out and walked up to the house and actually saw the body. I turned around and grabbed my dad’s leg and screamed. I looked up and it wasn’t my dad, it was a police officer. That was kind of my first experience with a dead person and I just kind of went downhill from there.”

Cobler went on more calls with his father and by the time he was in high school he was working part-time at Harris Ambulance on 27th Ave.

“That turned into having a room down there and going on calls on weekends and spending nights down there,” Cobler said. “In 1980, the city and county went together and formed an EMS district. I bought Mr. Harris out and I went to work for Metro then.”

In 1982, Cobler started teaching the EMT course at MCC. He did that for 23 years.

In 1986, he became and intermediate EMT. Then, in 1988, Cobler accomplished several milestones. He became a paramedic, was named director of Metro Ambulance and got married. He and his wife Lou drove away from their wedding in an ambulance.

“We decided to leave the church in that ambulance and drove up Highway 45 to another car I had waiting in a storage shed,” Cobler explained. “I have a reputation of being kind of a prankster. I had done so much to everybody else I knew the wheels would be off and everything else, so I rented a storage building. On our way to that, we got pulled over by the police and we thought, ‘Oh here we go. We are going to jail.’ About four of them walked up and said, ‘Congratulations. Be careful.’ and walked off.”

In 1990, he started teaching a paramedic program at University Mississippi Medial Center. He was working full-time at Metro the entire time.

If you know Clayton Cobler, then you also know he really loves his alma mater Ole Miss. There’s evidence all over his office. Countless items with the Ole Miss name.

“I’m from Ole Miss. We’ve never lost a party,” Cobler explained while showing a picture of him wearing Mardi Gras colored hat.

Cobler admited he’s a bit of a prankster, but joking around is more than just fun, it’s therapeutic in his line of work.

“When you’re in a very stressful situation, the best thing to do is humor,” Cobler said. “When you see a bunch of first responders over in the corner laughing when there’s a bad wreck or something, it’s not that their being cruel. It’s a self-protecting mechanism. It really is.”

It’s obvious that Clayton Cobler is deeply rooted in this community. He’s spent his entire life serving the public in a capacity others wouldn’t consider. His list of achievements runs long, but he says he’s thankful for reaching his goals.

“God is great all the time and all the time God is great. We don’t know why things happen. We don’t need to know. We’ll find it out when it’s time. All we need to do is trust him,” Cobler said.

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