No one knows better the danger that a tense circumstance can present than police in the United States. Constantly under pressure to control people who are guaranteed rights that provide them a wide latitude of no control, the scenarios that citizens can present range from the mundane to sheer terror, even for a trained professional. With that thought, we continue to reflect on moments in the history of law enforcement we wish we could get back, the sacrifices of those that have paid the ultimate price on our behalf.
Thomasville, North Carolina
You’ve heard of Thomasville, probably not realizing it. Thomasville Furniture Industries started in 1904 (as Thomasville Chair originally) and is a world leader in furniture design and manufacturing. The town is named for John Warwick Thomas, who created the town from acreage he received in marriage, and by lobbying for a rail stop while serving as a State Representative. Many furniture companies started in Thomasville, and is commonly referred to as ‘Chair City,’ in part because the staple furniture from the town was chairs, and because right next to that original rail stop sits “The Big Chair,” a large monument to the city’s biggest export. Thomasville is home to a Thomasville Senior High, which is a perennial powerhouse in football, winning the North Carolina State Championship eight times. Their Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams, as well as their Wrestling team have won five, four, and five championships respectively, and remaining very competitive to this day. Whether it’s football, or furniture making, these are the kinds of pursuits that require a team. Those teams need individuals who are proficient at their roles, but also know how to meld those roles together for the greater effort of the team. Nothing could be truer when it comes to law enforcement, and that is perhaps why our next two officer’s outcome strikes such a nerve.
Constables Robert Kennedy & John Bodenheimer
Constable Robert Kennedy of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina, was a two-year veteran of the office, when on June 29th, 1946 he conducted a traffic stop along US Route 29. He was partnered with Constable John Bodenheimer, a 16-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, and also came from a prominent family in the region. This may very well have been an all-too typical shift for both Constables, affect traffic stops, addressing poor road behavior, and educating offenders. After making the stop, Constable Kennedy exited the patrol vehicle and waited outside, while Constable Bodenheimer stayed inside. As they discussed the matter at hand, a vehicle entered the scene of the stop, in a reckless manner. The vehicle first struck Constable Kennedy, killing him instantly. Constable Bodenheimer was severely injured, but was not ejected from the patrol car. Constable Bodenheimer was transported to a nearby hospital, but four days later, on July 2nd, he passed away.
The driver of the vehicle was charged and convicted of Manslaughter. This type of charge is typical in traffic collisions where the driver has not exercised due caution in their driving responsibilities. It is perhaps because of incidents like this that the charge of Vehicular Manslaughter came to be, that is intended to better reflect the lack of responsibility exercised by individual drivers. Regardless of legacy, it’s not enough to remember these two officers by enacting specific criminal charge legislation. Constable Bodenheimer was survived by his wife and two children, and was age 49. Constable Kennedy was survived by his wife, and was age 34. He had just turned that age eight days prior to his death.
The known history of this incident is secured away, likely in local libraries, and difficult to put together due to sparse resources being available. But these two officers, who lost their lives while working for us, in the blink of an eye, deserve our remembrance now, more than ever.
In memory of Constables Robert George Kennedy & John McChristian Bodenheimer.