Mourners honor retired High Point chief Laurie Pritchett

(HIGH POINT, N.C.) -- White-gloved police officers stood guard over a flag-draped casket Thursday as family and friends said goodbye to retired High Point police Chief Laurie Pritchett.

Pritchett served as police chief from 1966 until he retired in 1975. He died Monday at age 73.

High Point restaurateur and ordained minister James B. Noble delivered the eulogy in the chapel at Sechrest Funeral Service.

''I knew Chief Pritchett, so I always called him 'Chief,' '' said Noble. ''I can still remember how he called me 'Picnic,' because a coach of mine said my mother dressed me as if I were going to a picnic.''

Betty Pritchett, the chief's widow, put her arm around one of her grandchildren while across the aisle High Point police officers sat shoulder to shoulder.

Noble spoke about the chief's personal and professional accomplishments.

''He was the first man to arrest Martin Luther King Jr.,'' said Noble. ''But despite that, he became good friends with King.''

Pritchett was police chief in Albany, Ga., when King was arrested for the first time for his civil rights activism.

Noble read an inscription written to Pritchett in King's book: ''To Chief Pritchett,'' he paused. ''With best wishes and with hopes that the system of segregation will pass away so we can truly be brothers, Martin Luther King.''

Noble attributed Pritchett's work as chief to his ''solid principles'' and tenacity as a police officer.

At the request of the family, Officer K.D. Green sang ''My Way,'' Frank Sinatra's signature song.

''It was the song that the citizens of Albany, Ga., dedicated to Chief Pritchett when he left to become the chief in High Point,'' said Green.

Police cars blocked traffic as the funeral procession made its way from the Lexington Avenue funeral home to the Floral Garden Park Cemetery on English Road.

Led by Maj. John Gregory, Lt. Paul Fincher and Lt. Jim Tate, officers flanked either side of the casket as they walked through drizzling rain. The officers pinned yellow roses to their lapels, like the roses that were later placed on the casket.

Family and friends gathered under two green tents while police officers stood at attention in the rain.

Police Chief Louis Quijas presented the American flag from the casket to Pritchett's wife. Behind him stood former police Chief Jim Hoyng.

Then the bagpipes sounded, completing the traditional honors following the death of a law enforcement officer.

(iSyndicate; News & Record; Nov. 17, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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