Family warns to take COVID seriously after Panola Co. first African American Chief Deputy dies

WATCH: Family warns to take COVID seriously after Panola County's first African American Chief Deputy dies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis man whose brother died from COVID-19 is urging families to take the virus seriously.

FOX13 told viewers last week about the death of James Rudd; the first African American Chief Deputy at the Panola County Sheriff’s Department in Mississippi.

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The hero, who broke racial barriers in Panola County, is being remembered by his family.

Rudd died after contracting COVID-19.

Family members are using his story to inspire others to wear their masks and avoid large gatherings.

“I want people to take this very serious,” said Charles Rudd. “At the rate, we’re going if we don’t do what we’re asked to do, there’s going to be a lot more lives lost.”

Rudd’s family told FOX13 paramedics took him to the hospital July 5 for heart problems.

The next day, Rudd tested positive for COVID-19 at 86-years-old.

“You won’t know how serious this is until someone in your family go down from COVID,” Rudd said.

Rudd said his brother’s health declined rapidly.

That’s when family members realized they needed to start preparing for his funeral.

“My brother, he didn’t realize he had it,” he said. “He was just thinking it was the way he feels every day.”