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Ardmore Police Chief William 'Doc' Oliver welcomes attendants to the annual Police Memorial Day service in Ardmore on Wednesday.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Ardmore Police Chief William "Doc" Oliver welcomes attendants to the annual Police Memorial Day service in Ardmore on Wednesday.

Remembering fallen compatriots
Memorial for officers lost in duty also honors one tough Ardmore lawman

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ARDMORE — An officer who died before preaching his sermon about heaven.

Two officers gunned down in the line of duty.

An officer who alone was the law in a border town.

Alabama and Tennessee authorities remembered those and the lives of all law enforcement during the annual Ardmore Police Memorial on Wednesday at the department's Alabama headquarters.

Ardmore is in Limestone and Madison counties in Alabama and Giles and Lincoln counties in Tennessee.

Sharing their stories

Guest speaker Florence Police Chief Rick Singleton spoke about the officer who died before getting to preach the sermon.

That officer and Baptist preacher was David Young, 46, who died May 3 when his motorcycle and a vehicle collided.

Singleton said Young was pursuing a separate vehicle that had run a red light. A vehicle pulled in front of Young, and Young couldn't stop. He was going about 55 mph.

"The Sunday before his death, he stopped in the middle of his sermon and said, 'When my time comes, I want it to be quick.' He told them not to shed a tear because he would be in a better place," Singleton said.

"He said next Sunday, he would be preaching on heaven. He didn't get to preach that sermon."

Ardmore Police Chief Doc Oliver spoke about the two officers gunned down in Athens on Jan. 2, 2004.

Oliver announced that the capital murder trial of the accused shooter, Farron Barksdale, 32, will start July 30.

Barksdale allegedly ambushed and killed Athens police Sgt. Larry Russell and officer Tony Mims. The two officers had responded to Barksdale's 911 calls asking for an FBI agent or officer.

He allegedly shot them as each officer arrived in his patrol car.

"Someone handed me a note asking for prayers and support for the families as the trial nears," Oliver said.

Oliver read a poem called "A Part of America Died Today" for the 48 officers killed nationwide in 2006 in the line of duty. Of those, 22 were from the South.

"Somebody killed a policeman today, and a part of America died.

"A piece of our country he swore to protect will be buried with him at his side."

The ceremony in a former church chapel turned police department wasn't just in honor of those lost in the line of duty, however.

Garon Hargrove, an Ardmore, Tenn., councilman, recognized an officer who survived an early start in law enforcement and was in attendance at Wednesday's ceremony, former Ardmore Police Chief Elifus Sanders.

Bringing law to Ardmore

Sanders was Ardmore's first and only officer when he took the job in 1949 at age 20. Sanders said about 15 lawbreakers promised to run him off.

"I retired 13 years later, and I'm still around today, and I don't see them around," San-ders said.

The former boxer said when he took the job, Ardmore, a border town, had the only beer taverns in the area.

"So folks could drink and dance, but the problem was, they didn't want to just drink and have a good time," Sanders said.

"They wanted to fight. They loved fighting."

Ardmore equipped Sanders with a badge and gun but no car.

"There were many times I had to walk prisoners to jail," he said. "The town was tough, but so was I."

Hargrove had two run-ins with Sanders during his youth.

The first was when he was a high school basketball player riding through town with his girlfriend. Hargrove saw a car behind him and told her, "That's a friend of mine wanting to race. Hang on. The race is on."

Then Hargrove saw lights flashing.

"I told her, 'My friend don't have a red light.' "

Hargrove said Sanders took him to jail.

It was years later that Hargrove was sitting in his car with another girlfriend after going groundhog hunting. Sanders happened by and saw a rifle in Hargrove's back seat.

"He asked me if it was loaded, and I said no," Hargrove recalled.

"He got 18 rounds out of it and said, 'Son, good thing it's not loaded.' He treated me with respect that day, so I decided to treat him with respect and never got in trouble again."

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