The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

November 25, 2011

Athens Police chief to retire after 46 years in law-enforcement

ATHENS — Athens Police Chief Wayne Harper won’t miss the crime he has seen over the past four decades, but he will miss the people and the colleagues he has befriended.

After nearly 46 years in law enforcement, including 23 years as head of the Athens department, he will retire Jan. 1, 2012.

“I had been thinking about it for a while and just decided it was time,” Harper said Friday. “It’s a tough decision. I still enjoy going to work, so I’m not really raring to go, but I would like to leave while my health is good and I can do things. My wife, Vonette, wanted me to retire for a while now. She looks forward to traveling. She has been very supportive of me.”

He will miss the people who have come to be his work family.

“I started in law enforcement when I had just turned 21, so I am going to miss people,” he said. “When you work, you spend more time with the people you work with than you do your family, so I know I am going to miss people. I have hired most of those who are here. I have gone to weddings and seen babies born and grandkids born and they are almost like a family.”

Home grown

Harper grew up in Jefferson County, in the Midfield area, and graduated from Hueytown High School. He earned an associate’s degree in law-enforcement from Jefferson State College and a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Montevallo.

In February 1965 — about two years after Birmingham’s commissioner of public safety used water cannons and dogs on black Civil Rights demonstrators and after someone had killed four black girls in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church — Harper joined the Birmingham Police Department.

“The problems were winding down by the time I came on board,” Harper said.

He found his career in the city and in law-enforcement, retiring as a police lieutenant from the department then accepting the chief’s job in Athens in May 1988.

Athens, he said, could not have been more welcoming.

“I just appreciate how everyone treated us over the years,” Harper said of the community. “We came up here with our youngest, not knowing a soul, and everybody just sort of adopted us. We never felt like strangers. Everyone was so nice. We have really enjoyed it — not just the department but the whole community and the area.”

Text Only
Local News

What is your favorite Easter candy?

Chocolate bunnies
Marshmallow chicks
Chocolate eggs with filling
     View Results
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee