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Gainesville resident searches for police badge
Bishop lost his Tybee Island badge on Thompson Bridge Road
Charles Bishop holds a picture of himself when he was a police officer on Tybee Island. Bishop recently lost a police badge from his Tybee Island career that he was very sentimental about. - photo by Tom Reed

Charles Bishop's police badge brings back many memories from his 30 years as an officer on Tybee Island.

Like the time his unit shot down a bus stolen by an intoxicated 15-year-old from Savannah. Or the time he was called to the beach to cover up nude woman who had a bit too much to drink.

Or the tragic night the police chief was shot and killed right in front of him.

But Bishop, 88, recently lost his badge.

The Gainesville resident was leaving the Wells Fargo Bank on Thompson Bridge Road Thursday when the car door flew open and his wallet carrying the badge fell out. Now he's hoping to recover the sentimental item that reminds him of times gone by.

Bishop took the job at the tiny Tybee Island Police Department in 1953. He was interviewed by the mayor at the time, who asked him about his experiences in World War II.

"‘Did you see any action? Did you get into fights?'" Bishop said, recalling the interview, "And I told him, ‘Yes, I was in fights, I got knocked down many times,' and he said ‘You're hired!'"

Bishop made $45 a week and never had weekends off, but it was a steady paycheck. And with the island being a popular tourist spot, the job didn't lack in amusement.

Bishop remembers when the Solms Hotel was the only building on the beach, and all the bars were on 16th Street. Bishop spent many nights patrolling the area on foot, dealing with rowdy tourists having a bit too much fun.

Because of this, many of his Tybee Island tales are filled with humor. There is one, however, that's not.

It was April 1963, before the tourist season, and most of the beach houses on the island were empty.

The police department made nightly rounds to discourage burglars. Seeing a strange car in front of one the houses, Bishop, the police chief and a third officer began to investigate.

As the chief knocked for a second time on the glass-paned door, a bullet came through the moulding and killed him.

"It hurt him right in the heart, and he fell and I fell with him. I said, ‘You just shot my chief!'" Bishop said.

The man who shot the chief was a recently married school teacher from Statesboro. Not realizing who was at the door, the man acted in defense.

At the time the chief was killed, Bishop was wearing the badge he lost on Thursday afternoon. His other police badges and insignias are kept in a frame.

Bishop said he carried the last badge he earned in case of an emergency, when his experience as an officer might be needed.

"I'm not very spry, but I thought maybe if someone's in trouble, I could show my badge and try to help out," he said.

The badge is gold, about 4 inches tall and 3 inches wide. It reads "Tybee Island" across the top and includes the word "Major." A depiction of an eagle with its wings spread is also part of the badge.

The family, with the help of a DeKalb County police officer, is offering a $500 reward for the return of the sentimental item.

In addition to his badge and license, the black wallet had Bishop's Social Security, debit and medical cards, along with $200 cash. But those items can be replaced. Bishop's badge and everything it stands for cannot.

"Whether a person will find it and do the right thing is the critical part," Bishop's daughter, Fran Wiley, said.

Readers who have information on the lost wallet and/or badge should contact the Gainesville Police Department.


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