The name of the late Officer Maurice William Phillips, Sr. will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial in Washington, D.C. Officer Phillips was accidentally shot while on duty with the Dalton Police Department and passed away on Dec. 25, 1956.
The name will be formally added to the national memorial during the 26th Annual Candlelight Vigil at the memorial on the evening of May 13. Members of the Dalton Police Department’s Honor Guard will participate in the ceremony which was also be attended by Tom Phillips, one of Officer Phillips’ sons.
"We’re just really honored to see this come about and be representing dad next week in Washington DC,” said Mr. Phillips, who was just 18 months old when his father died. “My mom told me that dad loved being a police officer… it was a passion. It was everything he lived and breathed.”
Officer Phillips was training a fellow officer on some “quick draw” techniques at the police headquarters in Dalton’s old city hall building on Dec. 22, 1956. The officers were practicing with unloaded weapons. When the other officers stepped out of the room, Officer Phillips reloaded both weapons. When the officer returned, he again tried the “quick draw” not realizing that his gun was now loaded. He fired, hitting Officer Phillips in the chest. Officer Phillips succumbed to his injuries on Dec. 25.
Officer Phillips’ wife Marie Gentry Phillips will watch next week’s ceremony via a video feed in Dalton with other members of her family.
The Dalton Police Department will also make good on a century-old promise next week when it dedicates a memorial site to the memory of a former police chief and also fallen law enforcement officers everywhere. The memorial site will be dedicated on May 15 as part of the department’s observation of National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day.
The department will memorialize the late Chief William “Bill” Hanna who was killed by a gunman on Sept. 20, 1899. Chief Hanna was shot and killed by 18-year-old Will Jones. News accounts of the slaying differ, but most agree that Chief Hanna went to Mount Rachel after complaints of Jones causing a disturbance by firing his rifle into the air while drunk. Chief Hanna confronted Jones, who pointed his shotgun at Chief Hanna. Chief Hanna reportedly said that Jones would not shoot him, at which time Jones shot him in the head. Chief Hanna died two hours later. Jones fled but was captured 26 years later in Texas and returned to Dalton to face trial. News accounts of that trial and its resulting verdict have been lost.
In October 1899, the Dalton City Council resolved to mark Chief Hannah’s grave with “a suitable monument commemorative of his untimely end.” That resolution was never carried out, and over the years the location of Chief Hannah’s unmarked grave has been lost. In recent years, efforts to determine the location of Chief Hannah’s grave have been unsuccessful. Instead, the Dalton Police Department will place the Chief William Hannah Police Memorial on a plaza site on the Police Services Center grounds near the intersection of Waugh Street and Jones Street. The memorial has not yet been constructed, but the site will be dedicated as part of a ceremony observing Peace Officers’ Memorial Day on Thursday at 10 a.m.
"Chief Hannah paid the ultimate price of service, and it will be good to go the last mile and finish what we started over one hundred years ago," said Dalton Police Chief Jason Parker. "Although the original idea in 1899 was to place a marker at Chief Hannah's grave, locating it here will be a more prominent location and will serve as a visible reminder of his service. This site will commemorate his service, but will also serve as a focal point for future police memorial observances."
The observation of National Police Week began in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy declared May 15 to be National Peace Officers' Memorial Day, and the week in which it falls to be a week honoring police officers. This year, National Police Week is Sunday, May 11, through Saturday, May 17.