A List Too Long
It was on a warm Sunday afternoon, some 14 plus years ago, on May 21, 2000 when the members of Laurens Leadership dedicated their project to honor those Laurens County law enforcement and public service officers who gave their lives in the performance of their duty to serve and protect our citizens. The group raised a generous $50,000.00 in donations.
The Dublin-Laurens community came together, as it always does, to ensure that no one would ever forget their lives they gave for us.
The memorial, designed by local architect David Woodburn, featured four half pyramid, black marble markers surrounding a star in the middle. With the recent improvements to the area of the Bicentennial Plaza, the marker was removed with the plans to place it in a more suitable place, complete with a flag pole and appropriate appurtenances. After much study, the decision was made to permanently place the enhanced memorial between the Bicentennial Clock and the Railroad Park.
Now comes the part of this story that no one wants to talk about and that subject is new names. Thankfully, no one has lost their lives since the first unveiling of the monument.
Through the efforts of the Laurens County Historical Society, more names can now be honored and added to the list of names of the fallen law enforcement and public safety officers of Laurens County.
As you may remember, the original marker contained the names of Laurens County Deputy Sheriffs, Kyle Dinkheller, Kip Brown and Wesley Stubbs, the latter of whom was killed in a car crash. Stubbs, as he left the city limits, surrendered his title as Police Chief of Dublin and by agreement became a Laurens County Deputy Sheriff. Three city policemen, John J. Webb of Dudley, Joseph E. Fennell and John Faircloth, both of Cadwell, were all killed in the line of duty. Danny Badgett, an EMT, lost his life while traveling to the scene of a deadly tornado which struck just across the county line. Constable W.F. Pierce, at the time, thought to have been the first Laurens County law enforcement officer to have lost his life in the performance of his duty in 1904. County Policeman W.E. Hathaway was killed in a liquor raid in East Dublin on Christmas Eve, 1919. State Trooper, John D. Morris, a Dublin native, was killed while traveling to the scene of an accident. County Work Camp Warden John Coleman, who was killed in an accident, rounded out the original eleven honorees.
George Crawford was a law man. He was a son of a lawman. His daddy, a county sheriff, was slain while attempting to apprehend a prisoner. Before this day, May 21, 1921, was over, George too would take his last breath in the performance of his duty.
Laurens County's commissioners hired their own policeman to enforce the state law against moonshining. Sometimes these officers conducted raids in conjunction with state and federal officers. This time, county policeman George Crawford and his deputy, E.M. Osborn, set off to look for a still, which they believed was operated by one Math Holsey or his daddy, ol' man Green Holsey, way down in the lower extremities of Burch's District.
Ol' man Holsey burst into the breeze way brandishing a shotgun. Crawford instinctively wrestled him to the ground and took his gun. Osborn, out of the corner of his best eye, noticed the senior Holsey reaching behind a crookedly hung picture frame and pull out an object. At first, he did know exactly what the old man had in his hand. He was about to found out soon, frighteningly soon.
Crawford and Holsey fiercely fought for control of the weapon. Deputy Osborn ran around to the other side of the scrum and beckoned to George, "What's he got George?" Crawford screamed out, "He's got a gun!"
The officers and the occupants of the house continued to struggle. A shot struck Crawford. "George was still breathing, but he never spoke and he died in two or three minutes," Deputy Osborn recalled.
Crawford, described as a fearless officer, had been a Laurens County policeman for two years. This acclamation was attested to by the fact that during the entire clash with Green Holsey that he did not draw his gun, not once. When the morticians were preparing his body for the funeral, they found Crawford's leather billy still secured in his pocket.
George Crawford was known to have been a policeman who fervently sought out makers of illegal moonshine. It cost him his life and the eternal misery of his widow, his eight children and a host of friends. But, no murder of a law enforcement officer would stop the fight to end crimes, whenever and wherever they occur. The county commissioners recognized the magnitude of the moonshine problem. So, they appointed not one, but two, officers to carry on the battle. Within two weeks of George Crawford's tragic death in the performance of his duty, Judson L. Jackson and J.K. Rowland stepped in and picked up the torch of justice to carry on the fight the rid the county of the evil demon rum.
The saddest day of the year 1888 came on a Monday, November 5. On the Sabbath evening the night before, for some unknown reason, W.M. Scarborough, in a stuporous state took offense to his arrest by Dublin Town Marshal N.K. Watson. As Marshal Watson pronounced that Scarborough was to submit to arrest for being drunk and disorderly, Scarborough plunged a dagger into Watson's neck, severing his jugular vein, spewing blood everywhere. For five agonizing minutes, the city marshal lay dying. It was the first time in the recorded history of our county that a public safety officer was killed in the line of duty.
George Martin, a convict guard at the Laurens County Prisoner of Work Farm, died an accidental death while in the performance of his duties on March 14, 1922. Martin was attempting to clean an old pistol to be used in his duty as a guard. After attempting several times to make the gun work, Martin handed the bothersome pistol over to Dewey Bedingfield, brother of County Warden, George W. Bedingfield. Bedingfield, while tinkering with the pistol, accidentally caused the gun to fire. A sole mortal bullet struck Martin in the abdomen, severely damaging his intestines and his kidney. Despite all efforts to save the guard, Martin died in a local hospital a few hours later.
As we re-dedicate the Law Enforcement and Public Safety Officers' Memorial at the gateway to downtown Dublin, let us all hope and pray that never again shall any more names shall ever be added to the list, a list too long.