Almost 70 years after Cecil Guest left the Gainesville Police Department, his badge will be turned in for good.
Guest’s antique badge will join the department’s history display, an item returning to law enforcement after decades of new ownership.
Though the badge’s journey is unclear, it wound up in the hands of Michael Richards, who at age 9 broke his leg playing football at Main Street Elementary School and spent months at home recuperating.
“When I was at home, my dad would bring home interesting things for me to look at to occupy my time,” he said.
The slender, heavy badge looked real enough, but it was hard to tell if the badge was ever in use.
“The pin on the back had shown some wear, so I always imagined it was somebody’s,” Richards said.
Some 52 years later, Richards gave the badge to Sgt. Chris Jones before the department contacted its historian, retired Capt. Chad White.
After looking through a microscope, White could see the name “Guest” etched in the top.
“Once I saw the name, I knew exactly who the person was that probably would have worn the badge, because I knew he started in the late ’30s,” White said, who hopes to have his written history of the Gainesville Police Department finished this year.
Knowing Guest died in 1991, White tracked down the officer’s daughter, Betty Ann Lane of Griffin.
“I was really thrilled that they wanted to put it in the trophy case, because that means lots of people can see it and it will mean something,” she said.
A well-liked man around town, Guest worked with the police department from 1939 to 1948 before buying a grocery store and opening a laundry service in town, Lane said.
“He loved his job, but my mother was always worried about his safety. That’s one reason he got out, because she was onto him all the time about it,” she said.
White called the badge “a great find” for the department that he’s been researching for the past six years.
“Even being born and raised here, I didn’t know all the rich history that was here in Gainesville,” White said.
Through his research, White has found a family with three generations of police chiefs. Former Gainesville Councilman Bob Hamrick’s grandfather also served as a police chief.
White said he believes a great deal of history and record-keeping was lost in the tornado of 1936.
“Until I started doing the research, there was no list of police chiefs, no history about the Gainesville Police Department, very limited stuff,” White said.
The department plans to put Guest’s badge and his picture in the display cases in the coming weeks.
“If I had any idea that it had so much history, I would have given it to Chris (Jones) a lot earlier,” Richards said.