Officers in hot pursuit of history
Published 9:51 am Monday, October 27, 2014
When history has been lost, it is often hard to reclaim, but two officers with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department are trying to do just that, collect and preserve the history of the department.
“One of the most important aspects of any organization, whether a sheriff’s department or a corporation, is understanding the organization from a historical perspective,” CCSD Capt. Mike Little said. “The history and legacy is so significant.
“It helps us to define the core of who we are, where we’ve come from and who we are as an organization,” he said.
Little and fellow officer Capt. Sean Johnson recently embarked on a mission to reclaim the department’s history.
“We have done a poor job of preserving our history,” Little said. “It is sad, really sad.”
Little and Johnson have been searching inside the department and out in the community for old photographs, old calendars and other memorabilia.
One of Little’s favorite parts of this project, he said, has been visiting former deputies and sheriffs looking for these items.
“We got to hear some amazing stories,” he said.
Sometimes, finding a picture turns out to be like working a case, Little said. They get a tip someone may have something they are looking for so they follow that lead. “To get one of these pictures, we may go through three different steps,” he said. “Maybe part of the fun of it is going through the chase.”
That chase paid off once in a way Little said he did not expect — he uncovered a photograph of his grandfather, who worked for the department in the 1960s. Little’s grandfather inspired him to go into law enforcement, and he remembers hearing stories about the officers from his grandfather while he was growing up.
“The picture of my grandfather was just a stroke of luck,” he said. “It is the most amazing picture of my grandfather I have ever seen.”
Finding that photograph gave new meaning to the project for Little.
“For me, to see the faces of these men I never met but knew so much about, it brought it to life and made it so much more real for me,” Little said. “Unfortunately, there is not a lot of this stuff around, and if it is, it is very hard to come by.”
Little said he believes preserving the department’s history is a way of honoring the men who, like his grandfather, helped to not only shape the department but to shape the community as well.
“Those guys were such colorful and big, dynamic characters,” Little said, pointing to individuals such as George Papantoniou, John Henson, Bob Hooks and Eulas Sargent. “There is such a rich and colorful history to this department. There is almost a folklore with this department.”
In the past, Little said the department has documented some of the history regarding the sheriffs through the years, but many of the other officers did not have their stories told and are now little more than memories.
“We’ve honored the sheriffs and they deserve that honor,” he said. “There needs to be some kind of tribute to the men and women who came before us and their service.”
Honoring those officers will also help provide a link between the department’s new officers and those who came before them.
“In the past decade we’ve lost a tremendous amount of long-time officers,” Little said, adding the years of experience of those officers can help the younger officers make the department even better. “You’ve got to bridge that gap between those officers and the new guys coming in.”
Little and Johnson are displaying the photographs they find on the walls in the department to help provide a “tangible link” between the department’s past, its present and its future. He said in a way, it has become like a “team building” project.
“One of the exciting parts of it is having these young officers asking questions about these pictures and having the older officers explain their part in it or the legacy of the department,” Little said.
Little is asking anyone in the community who has any photographs or other memorabilia from the Sheriff’s Department that would like to donate or allow the department to make a copy of to contact him at 423-542-2350.