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Looking Back - Fallen firefighters, law officers deserve to be remembered


There’s no greater sacrifice than that of one who gives up his or her life in service to and protection of others, but all too often our immediate front line of heroes — law enforcement officers and firefighters — are taken for granted, fully appreciated only when killed in the performance of their duties.

Southeast Arkansas is unfortunately no stranger to such sacrifice. Those who make the ultimate sacrifice deserve to be honored and remembered.

The most recent area firefighter to have been mortally wounded was Pine Bluff Fire Department Lt. David Curlin, who died May 22, 2010, from injuries sustained in a Jan. 3 blaze.

Other Southeast Arkansas firefighters killed in the line of duty include:

• George E. Tiner, PBFD, Oct. 5, 1922;

• George Williams, PBFD, March 23, 1932;

• Jearl Barger, Stuttgart Fire Department, Feb. 2, 1972;

• Clyde Russ, PBFD, Jan. 14, 1975;

• David Dupwe, Michael Hunt and Russel Leonard, McGehee Fire Department, Sept. 23, 1975.

• Jeff Copeland, Warren Fire Department, March 31, 1986; and

• Marvin Jackson, Wilmar Fire Department, Sept. 5, 2005.

The most recent area law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty was Leonard Sanford Wall, a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office juvenile detention officer who suffered fatal injuries when he was beaten by three escaping inmates on Jan. 31, 2010. Other area law enforcement officers who died while performing their duties include:

• Johnny Bratton and H. Lem Smith, Grant County constables, Feb. 1, 1887;

• Claud Holt Pickett, Pine Bluff Police Department, April 28, 1901;

• Desha County Sheriff William D. Preston, Sept. 26, 1911;

• Detective C.C. Lynn, PBPD, Feb. 5, 1920;

• Detective Homer C. Nuckolls, PBPD, Dec. 25, 1926;

• Lake Village City Marshal Samuel Tucker McCallum, Oct. 11, 1928;

• William E. Atkinson, Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, Jun 12, 1944;

• Fortune Crowder, JCSO, Oct. 5, 1953;

• Chief Robert Burbanks, DeWitt Police Department, Sept. 2, 1954;

• Lustachia Browder, JCSO, Sept. 15, 1957;

• Ashley County Sheriff Bunion Aubrey Coursen, Dec. 31, 1969.

• Desha County Sheriff Robert Smith Moore Sr., March 12, 1973;

• Chief Hubert “Bill” Payne, Dermott Police Department, Aug, 29, 1977;

• Capt. Clinton L. Tew, Crossett Police Department, Feb. 8, 1978;

• Chief Henry Davis Jr., Wilmot Police Department, May 23, 1978;

• Lt. Ronald Opie McPherson, Arkansas Department of Correction (Cummins Prison), May 2, 1979;

• John R. Fallis, Pine Bluff Police Department, March 4, 1985

• Charles Michael Bassing, Arkansas State Police, and Investigator Kevin Brosch, JCSO, July 24, 1986;

• Adolph Conic, Eudora Police Department, Jan. 9, 1992.

• Sgt. Scott Grimes, Arkansas DOC (Tucker Prison), Nov. 29, 1995;

• Jackie Wayne Pierce, Arkansas DOC (headquarters), Dec. 31, 1997.

• Sgt. Otis Vernon Love Jr. and Bobby Ray Watson, Sheridan Police Department, Feb. 8, 1998.

• Herbert James Smith, ASP, Feb. 4, 2001; and

• Jerry Dale Ridgell, Chicot County Sheriff’s Office, Feb. 1, 2004.

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Do you have a question on a local historical event or figure, or a story or photo from Southeast Arkansas’ past to share? Email Rick Joslin at rjoslin@pbcommercial.com.