Thursday, July 21, 2011
Chief Pearson dies in accident
By SUE WATSON
Former Holly Springs Police Chief Robert Pearson, starting just his third week of retirement, died Sunday afternoon in a motorcycle accident.
It happened about six miles from Holly Springs on Highway 4 East, according to coroner James Richard Anderson.
The call came in to 911 at 4:37 p.m. July 17. Anderson said he got the call to come to the scene at 4:57 p.m. and arrived at 5:13 p.m., about half a mile from Scales Tower Road. Air Wings had been called but was waved off after it was clear Pearson had lost his life, he said.
Anderson said Pearson’s motorcycle veered off the north side of Highway 4 East in a more or less flat area.
The cause of the accident and death is under investigation. The body of the 63-year-old retired police chief was sent Sunday evening to Jackson for autopsy.
The community is shocked at the loss of a man who was a newcomer to the community just five years ago but who was loved and appreciated by many.
Pearson had spent Sunday morning at the Asbury Men’s Breakfast, then taught a Sunday school class there and served during worship as an usher, according to friend and fellow biker Donald Street. As was customary, after church bikers gathered to ask about Sunday afternoon riding.
“He said, anybody ride, I’m ready,” Street said. “I stayed for a birthday party, so Beckley (David Beckley, president of Rust College) and the chief took a spin to Tupelo, then to Corinth and came back through Ashland and were on their way home to Holly Springs to get with us. We were ready to ride in general.
“The kind of rider he is, we believe something happened to him to cause him to leave the road. He went about 50 yards on level land and never turned, his tracks were straight. We think the front wheel hit something, the bike flipped and that’s when he came off. He was too good a rider. It’s doesn’t figure.”
Street said in his 50 years of riding bikes, Pearson was about the most experienced rider he has ever ridden with. He rode with Pearson the last five years and the two had a trip planned to Nevada for August 2.
“We made many trips – Columbia, Mo., Atlanta, Ga., Wilberton, Okla., and to Chattanooga in the mountains,” Street said. “When he was chief, he came by the shop every morning and afternoon after work.”
This is the first motorcycle buddy Street has lost.
Sheriff Kenny Dickerson said Pearson was “a quiet by nature sort, like me. His heart was in law enforcement and service to people.”
His death is especially tragic, Dickerson said, because he had worked so many years in public safety and did not get to enjoy much of a retirement. Pearson retired June 30 as police chief of the City of Holly Springs.
Charles Terry, who helped organize Main Street’s Bikers Night Out, said he has taken several trips with Pearson, the latest and most memorable to Omaha.
“He was always a man who carried himself professionally, even during recreation time,” Terry said. “He loved to ride motorcycles and cared for his family. He was always ready to ride – a very experienced rider.”
Beckley said it is a great shock and loss for himself personally and for the community.
“Holly Springs and North Mississippi lost a great friend and a great person in chief Robert Pearson,” he said.
They have been close friends since Pearson joined the police force and Beckley said he started riding about that time with Pearson.
They have traveled to Daytona Beach, Fla., to the 105th Harley convention in Milwaukee in 2008, and last fall to the National Bike Roundup in Columbia, Mo.
He said they had ridden to Tupelo to the mall to pick up a package and Pearson “was so happy and joyful and wanted to ride some more, so we took the long way home by way of Corinth.”
“I was in front and when I came out of the curve he was behind me. Then I missed seeing him when I came over the second hill, so I stopped and waited a few minutes,” Beckley said. “When he didn’t show up, I turned around and drove back about one and a half miles.”
A vehicle came along after the accident and called 911 when the driver saw the motorcycle, Beckley said. Pearson was conscious and breathing and trying to talk.
“In about eight to 10 minutes, he passed on us,” Beckley said. “We lost a great citizen of Holly Springs, a good friend and church member.”
Co-worker Janet Power at the police department said Pearson was often misunderstood as only being serious.
“Somebody said he never smiles, but he would pull a prank on you in a heartbeat,” she said. “He’d pull one on you and be just as serious as he could be, then he would give that sneaky smile.”
Pearlie Finley, executive secretary at the police department, said Pearson was a “good advisor, a good listener and everything.”
“You couldn’t ask for a better boss,” she said. “He would know if something was wrong with you when he came in and before the day was gone, he’d sit down with you and say, ‘O.K., spit it out.’ He was a great boss and we are going to miss him.”
The funeral service is set for 11 a.m. Friday on the campus of Rust College.
Ed Moses, minister of Asbury United Methodist Church, said Pearson’s family requests all law enforcement officers and elected officials attend.
“And if you cannot attend, please let this be a time of prayer for unity and continued growth of our city and county,” he said.
Seats will be reserved for local elected officials. Sheriff’s deputies and police officers will unite to assist with the service, Moses said.
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