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The story of the first fallen Hall deputy was almost forgotten. Now his name will be etched in stone
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Retired Gainesville Police lieutenant Gary Entrekin left the force in 2013. His great-grandfather, William Jefferson Dorsey, is the first known Hall County deputy to die in the line of duty almost 99 years ago. Dorsey's name will now be etched into the Georgia Public Safety Memorial in Forsyth. - photo by Scott Rogers

One photo on his grandfather’s mantel always drew the eye of a young Gary Entrekin.

The photo is perhaps the only one of his great-grandfather William Jefferson Dorsey, who was  likely the first Hall County deputy to die in the line of duty.

“Even though I never knew him and none of the grandkids or any of the great-grandkids knew him, for some reason I always felt a connection through that photograph,” said Entrekin, who retired as a Gainesville Police lieutenant in 2013.

Though he didn’t know the details, Entrekin knew his great-grandfather was in law enforcement.

“I remember telling my grandfather one time, looking at that picture, ‘I’m going to be a lawman like Papa Dorsey. ... I’m going to be a lawman like him one day,’” Entrekin said.

Entrekin and his family now have more answers following research by Gainesville Police’s de facto historian, retired Capt. Chad White.


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William Jefferson Dorsey

According to White’s research, Dorsey died almost 99 years ago, making him the first known Hall County deputy to die in the line of duty.

White said Dorsey was dispatched Feb. 25, 1920 to the Gainesville Mill to break up a fight, but the people causing the disturbance were gone when he arrived.

After finding the two men on Dean Street, Dorsey attempted to arrest them.

“While he was trying to make the arrest, the other (man) there pulled a handgun out and shot him,” White said.

Dorsey was shot in the stomach and died the next day. He was buried at Lebanon United Methodist Church in Hall County.

After a six-hour chase, the two men were found at an Athens Street home belonging to one of the suspects’ grandmother.

Both men, John Brown and Otis Darnell, were convicted of murder. Brown was sentenced to 15-20 years, while triggerman Darnell was given a life sentence.

“At the time of the shooting, Deputy Dorsey’s wife and their eight children were all home in the bed with the flu,” White said.

Entrekin’s grandfather was only 3 years old at the time of Dorsey’s death, and much of his memory was filled in by his older siblings.


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Gary Entrekin retired as a Gainesville Police lieutenant in 2013. His great-grandfather, William Jefferson Dorsey, is the first known Hall County deputy to die in the line of duty almost 99 years ago. - photo by Scott Rogers

White has submitted Dorsey’s name to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website remembering those in law enforcement killed on duty, as well as the Georgia Public Safety Memorial in Forsyth.

White received confirmation Wednesday that it had been approved, meaning Dorsey’s name will be etched into the stone memorial. A ceremony will be held in May.

“It’s nice to know that his sacrifice isn’t going to be forgotten now. If it hadn’t been for Chad, we never would have learned all this and never would have been confirmed,” Entrekin said.

White said he was surprised to come across Dorsey during his research of the Gainesville Police Department, as little was known about him.

Born in Pickens County, South Carolina in 1878, Dorsey was a farmer before joining law enforcement.

As he learned more, the retired captain provided documentation to Entrekin as well as Sheriff Gerald Couch.

“He said his mom would be very happy, because they didn’t know all the details. It kind of gives some closure for them of knowing what happened to their grandfather back in 1920,” White said of Entrekin.


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Retired Gainesville Police lieutenant Gary Entrekin's shadow box containing items from his career in law enforcement. His great-grandfather, William Jefferson Dorsey, is the first known Hall County deputy to die in the line of duty almost 99 years ago. Dorsey's name will now be etched into the Georgia Public Safety Memorial in Forsyth. - photo by Scott Rogers
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