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Oldest Police Chief in United States
Stanley's Chief Ralph Handsel
|Chief Ralph Handsel|
U.S. Oldest Police
In 1989 Ralph Handsel retired, at age 82, from his position as Chief of Police of Stanley.
He once confided that from a very young age he wanted to be a policeman. Though his first work was
not in law enforcement, rather it was in textiles and construction, he
shortly learned of a need for a deputy in Stanley and applied for the
job and was hired to work with Chief James V. Stroupe, Sr., in 1932.
After Chief Stroupe's retirement Ralph Handsel was made Chief of Police on 12 May 1941. He was made
Chief of the Fire Department in 1941 as well. James L. "Jim" Rutledge was hired as
a deputy police officer in 1946. In those first years Stanley did not
own a police car. Chief Handsel and Deputy Rutledge drove their own cars. Their first car was
purchased by the town in 1951, a black Ford with a circular red light and siren combination on top
of the car.
Many people who were school children in the '40's, '50's, and '60's will remember with fondness
Chief Handsel standing as a sentinel directing traffic in front of the school assuring the safety
of the children as they were brought to school in the mornings and picked up every afternoon.
Chief Ralph Handsel was selected by the Stanley Jaycee's as Man of the Year in 1968.
In the 1970's the police force was made up of six men and it was said that Stanley had one of the lowest
crime rates of any town around. It was around this time that Chief Handsel became president of the Gaston
County Law Enforcement Association, a position he held for several years.
In October of 1988 Stanley's Police Chief, Ralph Handsel, at age 81, was recognized as the oldest
Police Chief in the United States. He received a letter from President Ronald Reagan that said:
"You can be especially proud of the unselfish manner in which you have served your
fellow citizens, giving so much of yourself to protect those who live in your community."
"We all owe a debt of gratitude to people like you who daily place the safety and well-being of others before their own. Nancy and I send our appreciation and congratulations for your
humanitarian and civic minded service."
A street that connects Mauney Road and Hovis Road was named Ralph Handsel Boulevard in honor of
the Country's Oldest Chief.
Also Stanley artist, Dr. Bailey Graham Weathers, Jr. sculpted a bronze bust of Chief Handsel, and in his
memory it is displayed in the town hall.
Ralph Handsel, born on 2 October 1906 was the ninth child of Dora Isabel) McGinnis and Sidney Daniel
Handsel. On 13 May 1925 he married Alma Luetta Ballard, the daughter of Hattie and Jake Ballard.
Chief of Police Ralph Handsel died at age 84 on 16 April 1991. His wife, Alma, died, also at age
84, on 2 July 1993. They are both buried in the Stanley Cemetery, alongside their daughter, Mary
Nell, and near their son and daughter-in-law, Ralph McCall Handsel, Jr. and Faye Clemmer
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