APEX — Ann Stephens, a captain with the Apex Police Department, realized a year ago that the department’s history wasn’t documented. There wasn’t even a record of the town’s former police chiefs.
She wanted to change that. So Stephens worked with former town clerk Georgia Evangelist, who sifted through meeting minutes from the late 1800s to compile a list of employees.
On Thursday, the town unveiled its Walk of Honor, a tribute to former police officials.
The engraved brick walkway and seal in front of the Apex Police Department honors two marshals, all 52 police chiefs and 12 retired law enforcement personnel. The town will continue to add more bricks to the path.
“We just didn’t have anything to honor them,” Stephens said of local law enforcement. “Each and every one of them left their mark on the organization in some way. This is our way of letting them know they were important to us.”
Stephens recently discovered her family has ties to one of Apex’s former police chiefs, Robert A. Wilson. He is her husband’s great-grandfather. Wilson served as chief from 1946 to 1948.
Stephens said she found some other interesting historical tidbits while paging through records and old newspaper clippings. While W.F. Utley, a marshal, established the town’s first law enforcement agency in 1873, Apex didn’t have its first police chief until 1905.
Apex’s first black officer was hired in 1966, according to a news article.
Another shows that when Connie Clayton was selected as chief in 1968, he made $475 a month.
Bob Wilson of Raleigh attended the ceremony to honor his grandfather, Robert A. Wilson, who he never got to meet. The man died five months before Bob Wilson was born.
“It’s a great thing,” Wilson said of the Walk of Honor. “They should honor the police and those who serve every day.”
Jeff Castleberry’s grandfather’s name is engraved on the walkway. Lloyd Castleberry served as Apex’s police chief in 1917.
Castleberry said he believes his grandfather served a short stint because he was called away to serve in World War I, then came back and served on and off from 1923 to 1948. But there is some confusion because the chief’s name is listed as J.L. Castleberry in later years.
The elder Castleberry’s great-grandson, 14-year-old Parker Castleberry, was honored to be at the ceremony.
“It shows how he was part of this town and influenced it every day,” he said.
Three of the town’s former chiefs attended the event, including James “Jim” Ragan, who served from 1971 to 1972.
Back then, the town’s biggest problems were bootleggers and technology upgrades. Apex had four police officers and one car.
While Ragan served, he said, the department added two more officers, more cars, radar units and Breathalyzers.
Ragan was one of the founding members of the town’s first emergency rescue unit.
“It’s something that’s overdue,” Ragan said of the memorial. “We never really had any recognition.”
Ronald Hearn, one of the town’s longest-serving chiefs, was humbled by the monument.
“It’s something you don’t expect,” said Hearn, who lives in New Hill. “You get paid to do the job.”
Current Apex Police Chief John Letteney said the gratitude is necessary.
“We as a department are who we are today because of the men and women who have served before us,” Letteney said. “We are proud of that service. It’s now up to us to continue that.”
Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews