Deputy James Billups Trevathan lost his life while investigating a hit and run case in the Flat Rock community in 1963. Yesterday, community members gathered at Flat Rock Baptist Church to honor his legacy with the dedication of a bridge.
The N.C. 103 bridge over the Ararat River in Mount Airy now bears the name of Trevathan, and the dedication took place during the annual Surry - Yadkin Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service. This service was held in conjunction with National Police Week.
Speakers at the service provided accounts of Trevathan’s life. He was born in 1925 in Bedford County, Va., and later moved to Surry County where he became a deputy of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office in 1962. On June 2, 1963, Trevathan was investigating a recent hit and run incident in the Flat Rock community, and he stopped a suspicious car. He was then shot twice by the driver. Trevathan was able to shoot and paralyze the driver, but he later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.
Two of Trevathan’s children, Susan Trevathan Sexton and James Michael Trevathan, were present at the service. Their brother Tony was not able to attend. Sexton and Trevathan helped unveil the highway sign bearing Trevathan’s name, and N.C. State Sen. Don East presented them with plaques and miniature highway signs.
Sexton said after the service, “It was so honoring and touching. I’m greatly appreciative of all involved to make this possible.”
Seven other fallen officers also were remembered at the service:
n Sheriff J.E. Zachary of the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office, who was shot and killed while searching for an alcohol still in 1920.
n Officer Henry Dow Kennedy with the Mount Airy Police Department, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1946 during a chase of a vehicle suspected to be carrying illegal liquor.
n Officer James Thomas Jr. with Pilot Mountain Police Department, who was killed in 1966 when a prisoner took his revolver and shot him.
n Officers Ralph East and Glenn Branscome with Pilot Mountain, who in 1969 stopped a vehicle suspected of armed robberies and were both shot and killed.
n Detective Clinton Monroe Boggs with Mount Airy, who stopped a stolen vehicle in 1971, then the driver shot and killed him. The twin bridges on U.S. 52 crossing N.C. 89 were named in Boggs’ honor at last year’s memorial service.
n Sgt. Gregory Keith Martin with the Jonesville Police Department, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in 1996. His is the only unsolved case in the state involving the death of a law enforcement officer in North Carolina.
The service to honor these men began at 3 p.m. yesterday at Flat Rock Baptist with opening remarks from Chet Jessup, special agent with Alcohol Law Enforcement. He works each year to help organize the memorial service and dedications. He talked abut National Police Week and National Peace Officers Memorial Day. The memorial day is observed each year on May 15. Jessup mentioned a few officers he knew who “paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
“I will never forget these men,” said Jessup.
The Surry County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard presented the colors, then Sgt. Gerald LeFevre with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office gave the invocation. Boy Scout Austin Jessup with Troop 545 led the Pledge of Allegiance, then Steve Sexton and Eric Marshall sang the National Anthem.
Mayor Deborah Cochran spoke next. She talked about being a strong supporter of law enforcement and being grateful for the officers that protect this community and the nation.
“If you were not out there keeping us safe, I would be packing heat 24/7,” said Cochran.
Surry County Commissioner Bill Hamlin next read a proclamation from the commissioners recognizing National Police Week and National Peace Officers Memorial Day. Officers then read short bios of the fallen officers. Steve Sexton and Marshall then sang, “Go Rest High On That Mountain.”
The bridge dedication by East followed. He described the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) guidelines for naming a bridge, then he read a resolution from NCDOT. The sign was then unveiled and Susan Trevathan Sexton thanked those present.
The guest speaker for the service was Superior Court Judge Andy Cromer. He spoke about the difficult job that law enforcement officers have.
“To maintain the law and order in our communities is to maintain the peace,” he said.
Cromer went on to say, “We never know from one moment to the next whether we’re going to be here to be with our families.”
He ended his remarks with a few phrases he thinks officers should tell their families each day when they leave for work: “I love you, and I love what I do, and I’ll see you again.”
After Hamlin read a resolution from the commissioners regarding the bridge dedication, Jessup gave remarks regarding Trevathan. He read an article printed in The Mount Airy Times the week after Trevathan’s funeral. The article quoted the minister at Trevathan’s funeral as saying, “It’s hard to reconcile faith with a man’s lawlessness.” Jessup got choked up as he read the account of the funeral.
The service ended with a responsive reading and benediction led by Gray Shelton, a retiree of Mount Airy Police Department, and with retirement of the colors. People were escorted out of the service to a piano solo played by Sue Smith, who played the same song at Trevathan’s funeral in 1963. Outside, people lined up to see members of VFW posts 9436 and 2019 present a gun salute and play “Taps.”
After the service, Jessup said, “I thought it went well ... It’s been 46 years and 11 months (since Trevathan was killed), and it’s been overdue.”
Contact Meghann Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.