NEWBERRY — After 38 years of wearing a badge and carrying a gun, Newberry County Chief Deputy Jerry Wright will officially retire on Monday.
“I am leaving on good terms and at the top of my game,” said Wright. “(His career in law enforcement) has not always been easy but rewarding.”
Since Jan. 3, 1989, Wright has been the second in command under Sheriff Lee Foster.
The two men met while both were guest instructors at the state’s police academy between the years of 1985 and 1989.
At the time Foster was working in Newberry and Wright with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office.
“We developed a friendship,” said Wright.
“He has been a valuable staff member and a good citizen of Newberry County. He will be replaced, but we will surely miss him in the day-to-day operations. But most of all I will miss a friend that I have seen every working day for over 30 years,” said Foster.
Wright grew up in Horry County and moved to Columbia to study at the University of South Carolina.
After graduation, he went to work for police uniform supplier Wright-Johnson.
During his career there he met many law enforcement officers and was asked to ride along with the Lexington County officers.
Soon he was hooked and later offered a job with the department where he worked for 10 years.
As the chief deputy for Newberry County, Wright has overseen the department’s administrative staff, communications, civil process and is second in command.
Wright said the department has changed and evolved since he went to work for the county 24 years ago.
“It is a different environment,” he said.
When he first came to Newberry he says the clubs were open 24 hours a day and there was all kinds of violence.
Today, the county boasts as being one of the safest in the state and with the highest clearance rates of crimes that do happen.
“We have put the right people with the right jobs,” he said.
“Jerry Wright has been instrumental in the original restructuring of the Sheriff’s Office when I was elected back in 1989. He has also been a big part in keeping the sheriff’s office up to standards and the changes in laws throughout the years. He was the behind the scenes guy, but his fingerprints are all over the successes we have achieved throughout the years,” said Foster.
Wright says the biggest crime in his career was working the Lander-Beckham murder.
On June 12, 1994, Victoria Lander Beckham was murdered by her estranged husband, Stephen Beckham and Myrtle Beach bouncer Ricnard Anderson.
The murder of the senator’s daughter was made to look like a wreck on a Little Mountain Road.
It took a year to solve the case but the trial was one of the first to ever be aired on court television and the case was documented on City Confidential and Dateline. The reruns of the show still air.
Wright said the murder was the same night that OJ Simpson was accused of murdering his wife.
He says he still gets comments from people who watch the television shows about the murder.
Wright, who now lives on Lake Murray, says he plans to spend retirement playing golf and traveling.
He also wants to reconnect with old friends and family and spend time in Horry County.
Wright will also spend time with his daughter, who lives in Ninety Six, and with his son who will return from Afghanistan in the late spring.
“I offer Chief Wright and his family the best as he begins a new chapter in his life,” said Foster.
As a way to thank Wright for his service a reception will be held in his honor on Jan. 3 from 2-4 p.m. at the Newberry County Courthouse Annex.
Within the next few weeks Foster will announce how he will reorganize his department and name someone to handle Wright’s duties.