Mount Airy police officers Henry Dow Kennedy and Clinton Monroe Boggs both died tragically many years ago, but they have not been forgotten — including at a special event Monday.
The sacrifices of the two, made nearly 25 years apart, were honored during a noon memorial service at City Hall — moved indoors because of heat — which was held in conjunction with the start of National Law Enforcement Week.
It is an annual activity that pays tribute to officers who have died or been disabled in the line of duty, while also thanking those now on the job protecting the public.
“We want to make sure Mount Airy is included,” David Beal said of the nationwide observance, speaking on behalf of Friends of the Mount Airy Police Department, a support group that organized Monday’s event.
Those attending included about 15 present or former law enforcement officers, state Rep. Sarah Stevens, members of the city board of commissioners and Clinton Boggs Jr.
As part of the program, Police Chief Dale Watson conducted a roll call of Mount Airy’s two fallen officers.
Kennedy was chasing a suspected bootlegger who was speeding through town and driving recklessly on the night of July 16, 1946, when his patrol car went out of control and struck an embankment near Bannertown.
The 36-year-old officer, who had been on the force almost two years, was thrown from the vehicle and suffered a skull fracture and severe brain injury and died early the next day.
He left five children behind.
In 2008, a driving track that is part of the emergency services training complex at Surry Community College was dedicated in memory of Officer Kennedy.
Boggs, 38, was fatally shot on Feb. 25, 1971 after stopping a vehicle he suspected of being stolen from a local car dealership on U.S. 52 at the exit ramp to N.C. 89. Four bullets struck Boggs, who had joined the Mount Airy Police Department in 1966.
The twin bridges on U.S. 52 which cross N.C. 89 at that location are named in his honor along with Boggs Drive, a street in northern Mount Airy, and Detective Monroe Boggs Training Room in the police station.
He left behind two children, including son Clinton Jr. and daughter Dawn, who later would write that her father “died that night doing what he loved, for a town he loved.”
“Boggs was always ready with a helping hand and never met a stranger,” Watson said of the detective, who was scheduled to be off duty the night he was killed.
“They leave a legacy for others to follow,” the police chief said of the example those such as Kennedy and Boggs have set in giving their lives to protect the public, and how their experiences led to improved arrest and other techniques.
“Our main goal is officer safety, and a lot of things we learn are from the unfortunate events affecting others,” Watson said of how something good has managed to come from the two tragedies. No Mount Airy officers have died in the line of duty for nearly 47 years.
Group aids police
Along with improved training and procedures for dealing with dangerous situations, city officers have benefited from the efforts of Friends of the Mount Airy Police Department. That group was formed in 2011 to provide equipment to the force not supplied through normal budgetary channels.
In detailing the list during Monday’s program, Commissioner Jim Armbrister, a retired Mount Airy police officer, mentioned four bulletproof vests, a speed trailer to monitor traffic, a drug incinerator, help in supplying K-9 members and even an RTV (rough-terrain vehicle) provided through a Friends fundraiser.
Armbrister also cited assistance to reduce domestic violence. “If there’s a more dangerous situation, I don’t know it,” he said of a scenario numerous officers have died trying to defuse.
The assistance provided by the Friends of the Mount Airy Police Department is heartfelt, according to Walter Jarvis Jr., a member of the group’s board of directors who was one of the speakers on Monday’s program.
“I guess I’m partial,” said Jarvis, who served in law enforcement for 13 years, including with the Mount Airy police, Surry County Sheriff’s Office and in California. “I just want to see the police department get what they need.”
“If it benefits the police department, it benefits the city — there is no reason why we can’t be of some help,” Jarvis said of aid provided. “We have a small budget, but the impact of what we have is big.”
Mayor David Rowe read a proclamation Monday which referred to the “vital public service” police provide in safeguarding citizens and maintaining order.
Even with all the modern equipment and training methods, officers continue to die in the U.S. During a prayer Monday, local police Chaplain Gray Shelton, a retired city detective, expressed hope that no more names are “added to the list” from among those putting their lives on the line daily.
“Thank you for every man and woman that does serve,” Shelton said.
And the actions of those who make the ultimate sacrifice should always be remembered, Beal told those in attendance Monday.
“As you leave here today, what should be in your memory are Henry Dow Kennedy and Clinton Monroe Boggs.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.