Wednesday, 17 November 2021 17:32

Bridge renaming in honor of late Richmond County sheriff included in state budget

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The late James Clemmons served as sheriff of Richmond County for a decade. The late James Clemmons served as sheriff of Richmond County for a decade. RCSO

ROCKINGHAM — Pending the passage of the state budget, Richmond County’s late sheriff will be memorialized on a local bridge.

The overpass on U.S. 1, where it crosses over the U.S. 74 Bypass, is to be named the Sheriff James E. Clemmons, Jr. Bridge, according to section 41.43 of the budget.

Clemmons was hired as a patrol deputy in 1989 and was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the detective division in 1991. He was promoted to lieutenant and captain, respectively, in 1997 and 1998 and rose to the rank of major in 2002. Clemmons also served as commander of the Special Response Team.

Clemmons was first elected to the office in 2010 and won every subsequent reelection.

He was the first African American to attain the rank of major in the RCSO and serve as the elected sheriff.

Clemmons, in recent years, had been appointed to several state and national committees.

In 2019, he was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.

Clemmons was also appointed to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. He served as president of the N.C. Sheriff’s Association from July 2018-July 2019 and was chairman of the organization’s executive committee; and he had been on the N.C. Sentencing Commission since 2011.

He passed away at his home Aug. 5, 2021.

State Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Moore, said he was “proud and humbled” to sponsor the legislation.

“It is my desire that he will always be remembered for his leadership in our county, his dedication to the principles of law enforcement and his love of all mankind,” McInnis said. “I look forward to the day when we can all gather together to formally dedicate this bridge to my dear friend ‘Clem.’”

State Rep. Ben Moss, R-Richmond, told the RO, “I can’t think of another person more deserving.” 

“He always displayed true character and leadership. He truly was a great representative for our county and will forever be missed,” Moss said. “I was honored to call him my friend and miss the conversations we had.”

Mark Gulledge, who served as Clemmons’ chief deputy, was selected to fill out the remainder of the term and was sworn in Aug. 28.

“I am excited and delighted to hear the bridge will be named in memory of Sheriff James. E Clemmons Jr.,” Gulledge said in a statement Wednesday.

“It is something his family can cherish for generations, knowing and understanding that he was not just the sheriff, but someone who was loved and will be missed dearly,” Gulledge continued. “It will also serve as an everlasting memory to our community members for the services and sacrifices he made through acts of kindness. 

Gulledge added that naming the bridge after Clemmons “symbolizes what his character and purpose of life stood for in Richmond County. He was a bridge builder in our community that brought people together.”

"I would like to personally thank Senator Tom McInnis and Representative Ben Moss for making this special memorial bridge become a reality,” Gulledge added. “In addition, I would like to thank his family and friends who worked behind the scenes for their support of this memorial.”

The budget also includes renaming bridges in honor of law enforcement officers in Bladen, Cabarrus and Wayne counties.

After making its way through the General Assembly, the budget is expected to make it to the governor’s desk as early as Friday, and Cooper has said it would sign it.

Several bridges and sections of road in Richmond County already bear the names of prominent law enforcement officers and politicians.

In 2019, the Millstone Road overpass bridge, which crosses over Interstate 73/74, was renamed for the late Col. Jack Cardwell, of the N.C. State Highway Patrol, who once called Ellerbe home.

The previous year, through the urging of the Mineral Springs Improvement Council, a bridge on Green Lake Road was named after former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye, an Ellerbe native.

Others include:

  • The westbound lane of the U.S. 74 bridge over the Pee Dee River, connecting Richmond and Anson counties, named in 1983 for longtime sheriff R.W. Goodman. The eastbound lane is named for Wadesboro businessman James Hardison, who served on the State Highway Commission under three governors.
  • The railroad overpass on N.C. 177 in Hamlet, named in 1993 for Cadet William E. Bayless III. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Bayless suffered a fatal heart attack while training for the Highway Patrol in 1988. He was also an Army veteran.
  • The N.C. 109 bridge connecting Richmond and Anson counties, named in 1982 for Fred Mills Jr. Mills served as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Highway Safety from 1971-1973.
  • U.S. 74 Bypass bridge over N.C. 38, named in 2000 for Patrolman W.L. Reece. According to ODMP, Reece, who had been with the Highway Patrol for 10 years, was shot and killed in 1957 by a suspect pulled over for speeding on U.S. 220 near Ellerbe. Reece was also a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving during World War II.
  • The railroad overpass on U.S. 1 in Rockingham, named in 2005 for Dr. Ralph E. Gandy Jr. Gandy became the youngest veterinarian in the country after graduating from Auburn University in 1957; established Gandy Animal Hospital in 1953; and served 42 years on the Rockingham City Council.
  • The U.S. 74 Bypass (around Rockingham), named in 2000 for G.R. Kindley. According to the resolution, Kindley is an Army veteran; served seven years with the Highway Patrol; served on the Rockingham City Council, including 20 years as mayor; and served on the N.C. Board of Transportation.
  • U.S. 220, from U.S. 1 in Rockingham to Ellerbe, named the J. Elsie Webb Thoroughfare in 1973. According to the resolution, Webb served on the state Highway Commission and was “instrumental in obtaining for Richmond County many government projects which were greatly needed in this area.”
Last modified on Wednesday, 17 November 2021 17:50