One of city's first black police officers dies

Thursday, June 28, 2012
Jesse Clay (J.C.) Kirk Jr.
A young Jesse Clay (J.C.) Kirk Jr. in his Dyersburg Police Department uniform in the 1960s. Kirk and Henry Abbott Welch Jr. were hired together on July 1, 1964 as Dyersburg's first black patrol officers with the Dyersburg Police Department. Kirk passed away on Sunday, June 24, at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

On Sunday, Dyersburg lost a member of the community who crossed racial lines and became one of the first black police officers in Dyersburg.

Jesse Clay (J.C.) Kirk Jr., 73, of Dyersburg, died on Sunday, June 24, at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital after falling ill. Kirk and Henry Abbott Welch Jr. were hired as Dyersburg's first two black patrol officers on July 1, 1964. The two were lifelong friends, having played football together on the winning Bruce High School Bulldogs team before applying to the police department.

Kirk later on went to work for and retire from Truckline Gas Company and the Tennessee National Guard Unit in Dyersburg. He was a military veteran, member of the New Womack Temple CME Church, NAACP, a 33rd-Degree Mason, and member of American Legion Post 191.

Larry Williams of Dyersburg knew Kirk as a young man and said he was an inspiration for him and others when he joined the police force.

"He was a good guy and a community worker," said Williams. "It made me and the community feel good to have him in that position."

Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill was a friend of Kirk's and remembers him as a man of few words, but with a big heart.

"We lost a good man and an outstanding gentleman," said Hill. "He was a quiet fellow, but he was out there helping out with veterans' affairs and helping others in the community. He worked across different cross sections of people and was willing to do his part. You were able to know him by the truth of his words and the actions of his deeds."

The family will receive visitors from 6-8 p.m. this Friday at New Womack Temple CME Church. Services will be at noon on Saturday, June 30, at the First United Methodist Church with Rev. Session officiating. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery in Dyersburg. Thompson's Mortuary in Ripley is in charge of arrangements.

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  • I grew up down the street from Mr. J.C. and I know he will be missed.I will pray for his family because I know he loved them and they loved him.


    -- Posted by austin on Fri, Jun 29, 2012, at 12:02 AM
  • To me I neser saw race when we met,always

    "how you doing" may not have said much

    always a warm smile

    Blessed were we to have Mr.Jessie in our town

    -- Posted by tank2 on Fri, Jun 29, 2012, at 10:57 AM
  • Kirk was a well respected man... served a tour with him overseas. Always willing to help...

    -- Posted by DMASE on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 1:43 PM
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