HCSO Hosts 2022 Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony
Hamilton County, TN – Last night, Sheriff Jim Hammond, Chief Deputy Austin Garrett and the men and women of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office joined with local law enforcement agencies throughout our county and our region at the site of the Hamilton County Law Enforcement Memorial to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect the citizens to which they serve. Last night’s ceremony was held in partnership with Chief Celeste Murphy and the men and women of the Chattanooga Police Department.
This year’s ceremony was held in conjunction with National Police Week. During National Police Week, law enforcement agencies throughout our Nation gather in Washington, D.C. at the site of the National Law Enforcement Memorial to recognize our country’s fallen law enforcement heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Over 50 family members of fallen law enforcement personnel were in attendance at last night’s ceremony.
The Hamilton County Law Enforcement Monument, located on Market Street next to the Hamilton County Courts Building, bears over seventy names of law enforcement personnel who have been killed in the line of duty from not only Hamilton County, but Marion, Bradley, Sequatchie, and Grundy counties. There are also several names listed from federal and municipal law enforcement agencies listed as well.
This year’s keynote speaker was Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond. During his speech, Sheriff Hammond discussed how the Hamilton County Law Enforcement Memorial was established and the long process to bring it to fruition.
“The Hamilton County Law Enforcement Memorial you see behind me is the culmination of over two decades of dedicated efforts by members of the Law Enforcement Memorial Committee and its successor, the Chattanooga Area Law Enforcement Commission (CALECO), both of which were comprised of local law enforcement personnel, elected officials, business leaders, and citizens,” stated Sheriff Jim Hammond. “Their efforts stand here today in the form of this beautiful monument which honor’s our community’s law enforcement personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect us and our way of life. While we are honored to have so many relatives here at tonight’s ceremony, there are many listed on this wall that have no living relatives left. For them, this monument serves as a testament to their service and ensures that future generations will never forget their sacrifice,” he further noted.
During last night’s ceremony, (8) new names were added to the wall. These additions include the names of several personnel who were identified by family research and public records. Unfortunately, up till now, some of these individual’s service and sacrifice had been largely lost to history, including the oldest of these additions being Chattanooga Police Officer Jonathan Merriman who was killed in the line of duty on May 14, 1870.
On a touching note, one of the new additions to the memorial wall was HCSO Jailer, John Asbery Gillespie, who was killed in the line of duty while working in the Hamilton County Jail on November 9, 1942. Jailer Gillespie died of his injuries after being brutally beaten by four inmates with an iron pipe while attempting to escape. Jailer Gillespie’s service and death had been largely lost to history, however, information pertaining to his death was unexpectedly found while HCSO Public Relations Office staff were researching historical documents and archives at the Chattanooga Library for our 200th Anniversary Commemorative Book. Not only was information found detailing his death in local newspapers and records at the time, but his picture was also found.
Through additional research by HCSO East Sector Patrol Secretary Shannon Wilson, his Great Nephew was able to be located and invited to the ceremony. Jailer Gillespie’s living family had never seen a photo of him. However, last night after the ceremony, his Great Nephew was able to see his Great Uncle’s photograph for the first time, forever memorialized in the HCSO’s 200th Commemorative Book.
As this is National Police Week, please join with us as we remember the sacrifice of our community’s fallen law enforcement personnel.