A group of family members, town officials and local residents withstood below freezing temperatures to gather in the parking lot of Tlaquepaque Restaurant on Old U.S. 52 Bypass in Pilot Mountain early Saturday morning to honor the memories of fallen Pilot Mountain Police Officers Glenn Branscome and Ralph East.
The officers were killed in the line of duty on Feb. 3, 1969, after stopping a vehicle containing four men who were suspected of armed robberies earlier that evening in Forsyth County.
The annual remembrance began with a brief ceremony in the restaurant parking lot. Pilot Mountain Police Chief Darryl Bottoms noted the day marked the 49th anniversary of the tragedy and voiced his appreciation to all who came out to honor the fallen officers.
Town Commissioner and Mayor pro tem Gary Bell then described the day of the tragedy as “a sad moment that I remember well.” He went on to say that the walk was “a great opportunity” to honor the memories of Branscome and East
The ceremony ended with a prayer, followed by a photo of all participants under a sign denoting a section of NC Highway 52 Bypass as the Officer Glenn Branscome-Officer Ralph East Highway. The section received its designation in 2007, the year the annual walk began.
Those taking part then joined in a 1.5 mile memorial walk along Old U.S. 52 Bypass, tracing the path taken by Branscome and East as they had followed the suspect vehicle.
The walk ended behind East Surry High School, on the grounds of the Armfield Center, at a large granite monument recognizing the sacrifice made in the line of duty by officers Branscome and East. After a closing prayer, several family members lingered for photos at the monument.
Ralph East was born in Surry County on August 23, 1909, as the middle of five sons to Thomas and Francis East.
After growing up on a farm, he married Viola Hall. The couple went on to have six children, Rachel, Edward, Shelby, Linda, Don and R.J.
After becoming interested in law enforcement, East worked for the Elkin Police Department. That was followed by a stint with the Surry County Sheriff’s Department before he joined the Pilot Mountain Police Department.
Born in Carroll County, Virginia, on March 7, 1922, Glenn Branscome was the son of Charlie and Lucretia Spence Branscome.
He enlisted in the United States Army and, during World War II, went on to fight in the Pacific. He was honorably discharged in 1945. On August 24, 1946, he married June Estelle Shockley. The couple had two sons and a daughter, Michael, Terry and La Von.
Branscome had worked in the manufacturing of monuments for many years before joining the Surry County Sheriff’s Department. He later joined the Pilot Mountain Police Department.
Glenn Branscome’s son, Mike, was among several members of both families to take part in the walk. Among Mike Branscome’s family members attending were his son, Brandon, and his grandson, eight-year-old Cameron.
Mike Branscome was 17 at the time his father died in the line of duty. He went on to join the Winston-Salem Police Department at the age of 21 and served 30 years, advancing to the rank of captain, before retiring in 2002.
“It’s important to remember,” he said of the tragedy. “It’s great that so many people still come out and take a moment to pause and reflect.
Brandon Branscome echoed his father’s comments, noting that he enjoyed the opportunity to show support for the families and for law enforcement.