DOBSON — To honor all of the police officers who gave the supreme sacrifice of dying in the line of duty, a monument to honor their lives and service was unveiled Sunday on the lawn of the historic Surry County Courthouse following a memorial service.
Chet Jessup, who has dedicated his life to preserving the memory of those who lost their lives in the line of duty, presented the granite wall, which he said he hopes will stand for all of eternity.
“As long as this memorial wall stands, these men will mostly be remembered for not only the way they died, but by their family, friends and co-workers, they will also be remembered for how they lived,” said Jessup. “No amount of words, wreaths and/or music will do them justice here today, but this memorial wall now serves as a permanent reminder to each of us that we should always respect, honor and remember them.”
These names are on the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall:
• Officer Henry Dow Kennedy of Mount Airy Police Department died on July 17, 1946.
• Deputy James Billups Trevathan of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office died on June 2, 1963.
• Officer James Thomas, Jr. of the Pilot Mountain Police Department died on June 2, 1966.
• Officer Ralph East of the Pilot Mountain Police Department died on Feb. 3, 1969.
• Officer Glenn Branscome of the Pilot Mountain Police Department died on Feb. 3, 1969.
• Detective Clinton Monroe Boggs of the Mount Airy Police Department died on Feb. 25, 1971.
During the Surry-Yadkin Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service, two other officers from Yadkin County were honored, Sheriff J.E. Zachary of the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office who died on Feb. 13, 1920 and Sgt. Gregory Keith Martin of the Jonesville Police Department who died Oct. 5, 1996.
The ceremony, that was held Sunday at Salem Baptist Church, was held as part of Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15 and as this week begins National Police Week.
“Over the next seven days, men and women all across this nation will gather to remember law enforcement officers whose lives ended in the line of duty serving the citizens of the United States,” said Jessup.
During the ceremony, the Rev. Dale Swofford of Jonesville Methodist Church gave the invocation. Hugh Atkinson, Life Scout of Boy Scout Troop 505, lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Daniel Shores, who is an Officer Greg Martin Scholarship recipient, sang the National Anthem.
Paul Johnson, chairman of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, read a proclamation declaring May 15 as Surry County Peace Officers Memorial Day and for county flags to be lowered to half staff on that day each year.
Ricky Oliver, sheriff of Yadkin County, read the story of how Zachary died while raiding a still. He was shot in the shoulder and the bullet moved through his body and struck his heart, killing him instantly, he said.
Alan Freeman, captain of the Mount Airy Police Department, told the story of how Kennedy lost his life. Kennedy was accompanied by Emmett Semones and was chasing a speeding and reckless vehicle suspected of hauling illegal liquor. During the chase, the car left the road, Kennedy died the next morning from the injuries sustained in the crash.
Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson told the story of how Trevathan lost his life in a vehicle stop in the Flat Rock community. The driver exited the vehicle and opened fire on the officer, striking him twice.
Pilot Mountain Police Chief Darryl Bottoms told the stories of three Pilot Mountain officers who died in the line of duty. He said Thomas was killed by a prisoner who was in a holding cell that took Thomas’ handgun and shot him. East and Branscome died the same night during a vehicle stop on the U.S. 52 Bypass behind East Surry High School. The driver of the vehicle they stopped was suspected of two armed store robberies earlier in the evening. Both were shot and killed by the driver.
Freeman told the story of how Boggs lost his life. He said Boggs had volunteered to work on a special case when he spotted a stolen vehicle that he later stopped on U.S. 52 near the N.C. 89 exit. He was shot by the driver.
Jonesville Police Chief Roger Reece said Greg Martin lost his life in a traffic stop on Interstate 77. The driver of a red Dodge truck with West Virginia tags killed Martin with multiple gun shots.
“Sgt. Martin’s murder remains unsolved and is the only unsolved murder investigation of a law enforcement officer in the state of North Carolina,” said Reece.
Jessup later stated that the reward money being offered for information leading to an arrest in the Martin case has been raised by $100,000 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The reward money is now up to $130,000 total.
During the ceremony, Steve Sexton played the guitar and sang with Eric Marshall. They sang, “Go Rest High Upon This Mountain” and “More Than a Name on the Wall,” in which Jesssup re-wrote the lyrics to be more fitting for fallen officers.
Franklin Freeman Jr. was the guest speaker. Freeman, a native of Dobson, graduated from Surry Central High School. He served as a Surry County assistant district attorney and district attorney before going on to serve as Gov. Jim Hunt’s secretary of the Department of Correction and Hunt’s chief of staff. He served as a justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court and former Gov. Mike Easley appointed Freeman to the position of senior assistant for governmental affairs.
“There is no sacrifice greater than the loss of one’s life. These officers were making North Carolina a better place to live and that makes them heroes. The stories you’ve heard today remind you of how precious their lives were. These men died fulfilling God’s promise with their lives,” said Freeman.
Retired Maj. Grey Shelton of the Mount Airy Police Department gave the benediction before the congregation exited the church for a rifle volley salute and the playing of “Taps” by VFW Posts 9436 of Pilot Mountain and 2019 of Mount Airy.
Contact Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.