By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone. Hope you’re having a good week. Over the years it was fashionable to portray southern law enforcement officers as ignorant bigoted red necks and unfortunately this was true in many cases.
There was even a TV commercial for Dodge, remember the phrase “you’re in a heap of trouble boy?”There were many outstanding officers who were never mentioned such as I’m going to profile this week.
One was Dee Boyd Gore born in 1886 but always known simply as Dee Gore. In 1907 he married Elizabeth Jane Chrestman, called Miss Lizzie. Mr. Dee farmed for many years only a few miles from Papa Badley and they were lifelong friends. They later moved to Water Valley and built a home on the top of the hill on Boyd Street and lived there for the rest of their lives.
He worked for the city as street maintenance foreman in the days when the equipment was mule driven. Mr. Dee was a tall, lanky individual, soft-spoken and courteous to everyone.
Like many men in those days he wore wide suspenders, but he also wore a belt as well. He worked as night marshal, day marshal and was called on by every law enforcement to go on raids or arrests. He usually smoked sack tobacco in a pipe and – it was almost his trademark.
I knew Mr. Dee personally and I never saw him carry a gun openly, yet I know he was armed most of the time. There was one story a fugitive told about how he was running to get away and he heard someone say one word, “stop.” The fugitive said he looked back and there was Mr. Dee Gore pointing a forty-five at him
The fugitive, while telling the story years later said, “Boys, I stopped.” I was visiting in Water Valley one time and we were sitting out in the yard and Mr. Dee drove up and said, “Charles Norman, I want you to sit on a Justice of the Peace jury this afternoon.”
It never occurred to me to turn him down although I had never served on a jury before. He just had that commanding presence that you didn’t want to say no to him.
Jim Allen recalled a story about when he was on the police force he went along with the sheriff and his deputy to serve a search warrant for suspected illegal liquor. Jim said that they went inside the house and there was a group of women sitting around – some in chairs and some on the bed. They searched everywhere and found nothing.
He remember Mr. Dee was filling his pipe from a sack of tobacco and when he got it lit he said, “You didn’t look in the right place. Make those women get up and look between the mattresses.”
Jim said they did that and there were half pint bottles over the entire bed under the mattress. We lived only three houses down from Mr. Dee and he always radiated that impression that he was there for you if you needed him. I think that Water Valley was fortunate that Mr. Dee was part of the police presence for so many years. I know I am proud to have known him and he was the southern policeman that was never written about.
Another lesser known officer was Dick Cooper. He was a deputy and jailer for many years. He told me once about how he was called on to go by himself to arrest two young men who had done some robbing and had stolen a car. They were considered armed and dangerous. Dick said he started walking toward them and they kept saying if he took another step they would shoot him. Dick kept talking to them and walked toward them, disarmed them and took them to jail. Dick said that he later heard that someone in jail had said that they were going to get that Dick Cooper. Dick said that the two young men overheard it and told the man, “You’re not going to get him while we’re around.” This shows how certain individuals in law enforcement could command the respect of even those they had arrested.
There are some others I plan to profile in future columns and if any of you have stories you’d like to share with us, let me hear from you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.