by Jimmy Holderfield, National Secretary
The year was 1981 in Orlando, Florida, at the 45th Biennial Conference. A young officer with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office was elected as the National trustee representing South Carolina. That election would be the beginning of service to the members of the National Fraternal Order of Police for decades to come. This month in Las Vegas, at the 66th Biennial Conference, South Carolina National Trustee Jerry Wright will retire a second time as National trustee after serving 34 years in that capacity.
Brother Wright started his law enforcement career with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, a suburb of Columbia, on December 1, 1974, where he performed duties in the patrol, detective and civil divisions.
In January 1985, he accepted an opportunity with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy as the assistant range coordinator to oversee the training of recruits with firearms and driving. Many of the pursuit driving techniques he developed are still taught today.
In January 1989, recognizing Brother Jerry’s leadership, he was hired by the Newberry County South Carolina Sheriff’s Office as the chief deputy to manage the daily operations of the agency. He held this position for over 24 years and handled several nationally high-profile cases, including the “murder for hire” Vickie Lander Beckham homicide.
The story was one of the first televised cases on Court TVand was featured on Dateline and City Confidential. Jerry recalls testifying for over seven hours on the case, which resulted in the victim’s estranged husband receiving a life sentence for hiring her murderer. Upon Jerry’s retirement, the sheriff bestowed him with the title “Chief Deputy Emeritus.”
In 1976, Trustee Wright began his FOP career. He, along with other officers, began searching for an organization that represented the needs of the rank-and-file officers, and not just chiefs and sheriffs. That exploration led them to the National Fraternal Order of Police. Soon, they charted the first lodge in the state, with two additional lodges being charted shortly after. In the spring of 1977, the three lodges petitioned the National FOP to charter the South Carolina State Lodge.
The charter was granted, and past National President Pat Stark delivered the charter and swore in the newly elected state officers. Brother Jerry remains the longest-serving South Carolina charter member, as others are either deceased or have retired from their memberships.
Brother Wright has served in numerous capacities at the local, state and national levels, which include eight years as local president, one term as State secretary, one term as State vice president and 11 years as State president. He is currently the longest-serving National trustee, having served from 1981–2001 and 2009–2023 for a total of 34 years, surpassing Bill Peacock’s (Georgia) 33 years and Bob Lampard’s (Louisiana) 32 years.
During Jerry’s tenure as State president, he is most proud of his accomplishment of hiring two professional lobbyists, which enabled the State Lodge to pass many laws that benefited his sisters and brothers. He is equally proud that the State Lodge was instrumental in “killing” many bad pieces of legislation that would have been averse to our noble profession.
He also served as the chairman of the South Carolina Memorial Committee. During his service in this position, he and the committee erected a memorial to honor the brave brothers and sisters who made the supreme sacrifice on the South Carolina State House grounds. This was the last monument allowed to be built on the grounds.
Brother Wright has also served on the National Legal Defense Plan for the past eight years. During his service on this special board, he has been a driving force in turning the plan around from operating in a deficit to being a self-sustaining operation, serving over 115,000 members.
He is especially proud of the newest product, the HR 218 Retiree Canceled Carry policy. He has committed to President Yoes that he will continue serving our National membership on the National Legal Defense Plan.
I asked Brother Jerry if he had any words he wished to express to our members. He said, “Yes, I want to thank my wife and children for their support because I was gone a lot doing FOP business and the members of the South Carolina FOP, who always had the faith and trust in me to represent them.”
Brother Jerry Wright, on behalf of the 370,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, we thank you for your service to us all. We admire your fraternal enthusiasm and cherish your leadership and energy. You are truly the “DEAN” of the National Board of Trustees, and we are grateful for all you have accomplished for us and wish you well in your future endeavors.
As featured in the August issue of the FOP Journal.