COLUMBIA, S.C. – Forty-plus Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) patrol vehicles, including two RCSD motorcycles, assembled at Cardinal Newman High School in northeast Columbia before converging on the nearby Waterford retirement community, Tues. morning, Apr. 21, where deputies passed-in-review before retiring Reserve Deputy Dewight Thomas, a resident of the Waterford.
“We wanted to do something special for Dewight who not only retired this week, but he turned 90-years-old on the same day,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “Since we couldn’t have him celebrate with us at our offices because of the current COVID-19 threat, we thought we’d host a processional parade in his honor and for all the residents of the Waterford to see and enjoy with him.”
Deputy Thomas began serving as an RCSD reserve deputy at the age of 73. “That was 17 years ago,” said Lott. “So we wanted to thank him for his service and tell him to keep on going strong.”
Thomas received salutes from scores of deputies and supervisors from all regions, the RCSD training unit, and members of RCSD’s Special Response (SWAT) Team. He was also presented a birthday cake, a badge, and a plaque, a portion of which reads, “for exemplary service … and countless contributions to the department and the citizens of Richland County.”
An Ohio native and veteran of the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Thomas retired from the Savannah River Site in 1995. He attended the University of Dayton (Ohio), Midlands Technical College, and the University of South Carolina. Thomas is also a charter member of Spring Valley Presbyterian Church where he served as both deacon and elder.
“This recognition for me was out of this world,” said Thomas. “The Sheriff stood next to me the entire time the parade of cars was passing by, and it is because of him that I served in law enforcement for these 17 years until my 90th birthday.”
[Photograph by Deputy III Cynthia Roldan, Richland County Sheriff’s Dept.]
– W. Thomas Smith Jr., a former U.S. Marine infantry leader and counterterrorism instructor, is a special deputy with the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. He directs RSCD’s Elder Abuse Awareness Team.