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21-gun salute, honor guard memorializes former Gainesville police chief

Henry hired Gainesville's first black, first female officers

POSTED: March 14, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Robin Michener Nathan/The Times

Gainesville motorcycle officers salute the funeral procession of former Gainesville Police Chief Hoyt Henry as it enters Alta Vista Cemetery on Monday.

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It was an unusual friendship — a Baptist police chief and a Catholic priest.

But for more than half a century, Hoyt Herschel Henry Sr. and Monsignor Donald Kiernan were close personal friends. It began in 1956, when Kiernan was assigned to St. Michael parish.

"Hoyt was as close to me as my own brothers," Kiernan said in his eulogy Monday for Henry, who died Friday at the age of 86.

"Friday, something told me to come to Gainesville. I got in my automobile and drove up here and went to the hospital. He died about 15 minutes after I was there."

Henry was Gainesville police chief from 1952 to 1971. Just 28 when he assumed command of the 12-officer force, he was the youngest police chief in Georgia at the time.

Kiernan’s eulogy was a personal recollection of travels to various police conventions with Henry and their long relationship.

"He could find joy in just about everything," Kiernan said.

Kiernan was appointed by Henry as chaplain of the Gainesville Police Department. Now retired from the active pastorate and living in Atlanta, he serves as chaplain for the Georgia State Patrol.

Current Police Chief Frank Hooper, also a eulogist at the service, recalled the pioneering efforts of Henry, who hired the first black and female officers in the department, created a detective unit and a K-9 unit.

"Chief Henry served the citizens of this community and took it personally when anyone became a victim during his watch," Hooper said. "The theft of $5 was just as important as one of $5,000, because in both, someone in his community had become a victim of a crime."

Henry continued his law enforcement career for another 14 years at Lake Lanier Islands.

Hoyt Henry served in the U.S. Army in World War II and was a military policeman. Born in South Hall County, he returned to Gainesville where he accepted an $89-a-week job as a patrolman.

"I was working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, and I had to pay for half of my uniform," he told The Times in a June 1971 interview as he was leaving the Gainesville department.

Among the rules in the early days of Henry’s administration: Officers had to get out of the patrol car on the right side and no soft drinks were permitted in the vehicles.

Henry was among the charter members of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

He was carried to his final resting place at Alta Vista Cemetery by uniformed pallbearers representing the Gainesville Police Department and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. Full ceremonial honors, including a 21-gun salute and the playing of "Taps," was provided by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard.



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