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Section of I-20 dedicated to Elgin’s Chris Potter

Posted: November 27, 2013 4:08 p.m.
Updated: November 29, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Tenell Felder/C-I

Attending Wednesday’s highway dedication are (left to right) State Sen. J. Thomas McElveen III, State Rep. Laurie Funderburk, Elgin Police Chief Harold Brown, Chris Potter IV, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen and Potter’s widow, Jeannie.

The Elgin community gathered at Highway Pentecostal Holiness Church in Elgin Wednesday to dedicatea section of I-20 to a Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office deputy killed in the line of duty in 1974. Police officers, state and local representatives and more joined members of the late Deputy Chris Potter III’s family to honor him.

A section of I-20 near the 88 eastbound mile marker is now dedicated to Potter. A sign there now marks where Potter died after being shot by suspects on Feb. 21, 1974.

Potter’s widow, Jeannie, said that day would remain frozen in the hearts and minds of the family and friends of her late husband.

“That permanently changed all of our lives forever,” Potter said during the ceremony recalling the day of her husband’s death.

On Feb. 21 1974, Deputy Potter and his partner, Deputy J.C. Tollison, approached two men who were hitchhiking when one of the men opened fire on the deputies. Deputy Tollison was seriously injured in the gun fire that killed his partner.

State Sen. Joel Lourie reminded those attending the ceremony of the daily sacrifices police officers make for the community.

“This is also a reminder of our friends who are law enforcement. We always remember that every day when they go out, they are taking a risk, and as citizens of this community we must do all we can to support them,” Lourie said.

S.C. Speaker of the House Robert W. Harrell Jr. spoke about how the families of officers also make sacrifices.

“They are a part of a much larger family -- a community of extraordinary men and women, wives and husbands, children and parents who together make up that thin blue line, shielding the innocent from the unfortunate evils of this world,” Harrell said. “Our law enforcement community isn’t just the officers who are in uniform, it includes every member of their family … the Potter family knows all too well the ultimate price of that sacrifice.”

Jeanie Potter raised her and her late husband’s son, Chris, as a single parent. She credits God with giving her her son to help her through the difficult days that lay ahead for her after her husband was murdered.

“The miracle of life is a wonderful healer. I firmly believe that when God takes away something or someone so special he gives us something in turn to cherish… in my life the birth of our son. Life without Chris has not been easy and God knew that I would need a piece of him here with me,” Potter said.

Jeanie Potter and her husband were high school sweethearts. Their son, Chris Potter IV, currently serves as a sergeant with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

Richland County Sherriff Leon Lott spoke about watching Jeannie raise her son.

“John F. Kennedy wrote a book called Profiles of Courage, and I think that someone who needs to be in that book is Jeanie Potter,” Lott said. “I watched her as a single mom … that was a tough decision for her (letting her son into the police force), one that she struggled with. It took courage that she would allow her son to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“I was honored to watch him grow as a deputy, as a man as a husband and then as a father. I’ve been honored to be a part of this family.”

Immediately following the dedication ceremony, a representative from the S.C. Department of Transportation uncovered a copy of the memorial dedicated to Deputy Potter. It reads: “In memory of Deputy Sheriff Ernest Christian ‘Chris’ Potter, III”

“In years to come, people will ride by that exit and what is so important is that the story of Chris Potter will be told again … and that is the way we ensure that Deputy Potter’s legacy lives on forever,” Lourie said.

Lott and Lourie were joined by State Sen. Vincent Sheheen and S.C. State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk. Lourie, Sheheen and Funderburk were all involved in having a joint resolution passed to memorialize the  section of I-20 for Deputy Potter.

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