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Memorial pays tribute to nine Sullivan officers

J.H. OSBORNE • May 20, 2017 at 10:30 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — They gathered to remember these men who gave their lives in the line of duty: Lee “Eldridge” Eldreth, Hubert Webb, Bruce Barker, Arthur Lane, Glayton Parker, Roscoe Teague, Steve Mullins, Steve Riner and Barry Shelton.

Each carried various ranks in life. And each gave his life “to protect and to serve” as officers of the law. Eldreth was killed Christmas Day, 1907. Riner and Mullins were killed Sept. 29, 2001.

 

There’s a permanent memorial just outside the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office with each man’s name engraved on granite and watched over by an eternal flame. Current officers pass it as they come and go. But once a year, they invite the public to gather with them to pay tribute. Front and center always are any surviving family members of the fallen officers.

Friday’s ceremony began with the placement of a fresh floral wreath on that memorial. The Sullivan Central High School Cougar Sing Ensemble followed with “Amazing Grace.”

Sheriff Wayne Anderson, his voice belying his emotion, welcomed and thanked all those gathered.

David Browing, in character as “The Mayberry Deputy,” delivered the keynote speech in memory of the fallen officers.

Browning is known far and wide for his portrayal, played mostly for laughs, of the Barney Fife-esque lawman.

His speech Friday did use some humor, but in a way that brought focus to the solemnity of the occasion.

Browning said it is time to lift law enforcement up, rather than tear it down.

“You know, Barney says, ‘Nip it in the bud.’ My ‘nip it’ is a little bit different. ‘Nip it’ for me stands for ... now it’s possible, it’s time. It’s time to change our attitude toward law enforcement. Those of us here today already know what a good attitude toward law enforcement is, but we’ve got to share it with other people. Now it’s possible. It’s time.”

Browning said today’s technology — namely cell phones — will never replace a handshake or personal greeting.

“It’s never going to take the place of walking up to somebody and saying, ‘I care about you, and I’m interested in the troubles you have in your life and how I might help you.’ It’ll never replace that. We can never, ever forget that human contact that we can have and the inspiration that we can be for other people. I know law enforcement does it all the time. ... Don’t forget to walk up to an officer and say, ‘Thank you.’ I never hesitate to do it, because they deserve it.”