Flags of Honor

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Benjamin Thacker was only 23 when he was killed in a three-way collision at the corner of Main and Pike streets in Coal Grove in March of 1929.

The motorcycle officer for the Coal Grove Police Department was chasing a speeder through the village when his bike was caught between two cars and he was crushed to death.

Thacker is one of eight members of Lawrence County law enforcement and a member of the emergency medical services to die in the line of duty and he and his fellow first responders will be remembered starting Thursday at the annual Flags of Honor display at Ironton Hills.

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“This is simply because just like our soldiers, on a local level, they gave all,” Lawrence County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Randy Goodall said. “They gave their all.”

As the flags pay honor to the soldiers who died defending their country, this year additional flags will mark the sacrifice of law enforcement and first responders.

Last year the Flags of Honor also presented the Moving Vietnam Wall, which was escorted into Ironton by a caravan of first responders.

“It was a great success last year and we thought we can do it this year for our first responders,” Goodall said.

The first responders who will be honored are:

• Luther C. Kennedy was killed on Aug. 29, 1916, when five men he was trying to arrest beat him to death. He was 65 years old and a member of the Proctorville Police.

• Benjamin Thacker was killed on March 29, 1929, in Coal Grove.

• Wilbur Bias was killed on July 23, 1935, by a former deputy marshal who had been released from prison after serving prohibition charges. The former deputy saw Bias and shot at him. Bias pursued the car driven by the deputy who was with two other men. Bias stopped the car and when he got out of his police car, all three men opened fire. He was 49 years old and the Proctorville village marshal.

• Gordon Lunsford was killed on June 3, 1951, when he and a sheriff’s deputy were arresting a man on a peace warrant at the man’s home. The suspect fired on the two officers, wounding the deputy and shooting Lunsford in the head, killing him. He was 40 and a member of the Chesapeake Police.

• Joseph Rigney was killed on July 29, 1952 when he was shot to death attempting to serve a warrant in Gallia County. He was 70 and a member of the now defunct Rome Township Police.

• Eugene Markel was killed on Dec. 2, 1966, as he was attempting to assist the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office following a county jail break where a prisoner had taken three deputies hostage. Markel stormed the jail firing and was hit in the chest and killed instantly. He was 41 years old and Ironton City Police chief.

• Edward Henry and David Ford were killed on Feb. 7, 1971, as they were responding to a fire call. A truck that had been on the shoulder pulled out in front of their cruiser. Henry was 35 and Ford was 33 and deputies with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.

• Rich Smith was a member of the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services when he was responding to a call at the South Point sewer plant and was killed when he fell into a pit.

The Flags opening ceremony is at 5 p.m. Thursday. A caravan will escort the Flags into Ironton starting at noon at Golden Corral in Russell, Ky.