The Daily Southerner
When old timers talk about law enforcement in Edgecombe County, W.H. “Horace” Ward is often the first name that comes up. Ward was one of the first five Edgecombe County deputies to pin on badges. He was also a magistrate.
Ward, 90, died Tuesday after a lingering illness. Ward was a chartered member of both the Edgecombe County Volunteer Rescue Service and the Optimist Club. Although his volunteer services didn’t go unnoticed, his countywide popularity was earned as a law enforcer.
“Mr. Ward was very knowledgeable when it came to the laws of the state,” said Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight. “He was dependable, but most of all fair and honest. Even after his retirement he still was an asset to law enforcement.”
Former Edgecombe County Sheriff Tom Bardin deputized Ward in 1962.
“It’s kinda odd how my daddy became a deputy,” said Ward’s son, Gerald. “He won an election for the constable (a public officer usually of a town or township responsible for keeping the peace and for minor judicial duties). But before he took office, they did away with the position. It just so happened Sheriff Bardin asked him to become a deputy.”
After 10 years on patrol, Ward turned in his badge and became an Edgecombe County magistrate. There, he built his reputation for being fair and honest.
“He did a great job as the magistrate,” said Mary Flanagan, a long time friend. “He was honest and fair. He was one of the most sincere people you can find anywhere. Edgecombe County is going to miss him.”
As magistrate, Ward married 2,000 couples, Gerald Ward said. Another magistrate-related feat Gerald Ward was proud of was the day his father swore him in as a Tarboro police officer. That common bond led to the younger Ward publishing a book, “Memories of a Small-Town Cop.” The book contains stories about his father and his life as a law enforcement officer.
The book states that at the beginning of his father’s career, deputies used their own vehicles. The emergency lights were red and were placed on the dash board and plugged in a cigarette lighter when needed. His first agency owned car was issued in 1969. The senior Ward never forgot those days.
“After he retired he often talked about his law enforcement days,” Flanagan said. “He was proud that he served.”
Ward also served in the Navy in World War II, where he fought in the Pacific. He was honorably discharged in 1945 after a second bout with malaria.
Ward’s retirement from law enforcement led him to become more active in his civic organizations. His passions were camping at the Oregon Inlet and his cats.
“My day had three cats and he loved them,” said Gerald Ward. “I told him along time ago that when he passed, I was going to put them cats in the casket with him. He said, ‘That will be fine. They will go.’”
“One of pop’s favorites was a white cat with blue eyes. He kept that cat about 17 years. I’m going to put a replica of a white cat with blue eyes in his casket. He would like that.”
Ward is survived by his wife, Leola Strawbridge Ward, a daughter, Gayle Ward Rutledge and two sons, William H. Ward and Gerald Ward.
A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m Friday in Edgecombe Memorial Park