Barry Saunders

August 25, 2014

Saunders: Remembering a fair and good leader of the Highway Patrol

After news last week of the death of Col. Richard Holden Sr., the first African-American commander of the NC Highway Patrol, Carolyn Green Logan remembered what he did for her career.

Do you know what Carolyn Green Logan thought was so special about her relationship with Col. Richard Holden Sr., the former N.C. Highway Patrol commander who died last week?

“He didn’t treat me special,” Logan said. “He treated me fairly, when a lot of others didn’t. What I liked about him so much is that he didn’t go out of his way to do anything special for me, but he would listen to me. ... We had a lot in common. I was the first black female and he was the first black colonel.”

Logan, whom I first interviewed in 1984 when she joined the patrol and was stationed in Rockingham – where I was publishing my own newspaper, the Richmond County North Star – called me Friday seeking confirmation of something she didn’t want confirmed.

Is Col. Holden dead? she asked.

Yes, I told her. We already had a story online about it.

“Oh, that thing hurt me so bad,” she said about first hearing the news. “I couldn’t even talk. I was hoping it wasn’t true.”

‘Mentor to all’

I asked her Monday if Holden was a mentor to her and to other black troopers throughout his career?

No, she said. “He was a mentor to all troopers. Most of the ones I’ve talked to said he was a really good man ... a fair person.”

That’s all Logan was looking for as a trooper, she said – fairness. She doesn’t feel she always received it.

“I’d taken the sergeant’s exam a couple of times and they were always like, ‘You didn’t pass.’ I’d check back and they’d say, ‘You actually did pass’ but it was too late to do anything about it, to get me on the list” for a promotion.

“I had taken the test after Holden made colonel in 1999,” she said, and the next year she was promoted to sergeant.

Holden was accused by some critics of favoring black troopers, but Logan said she thinks his mere presence as HDIC – head dude in charge – of the NCHP ensured she’d be treated fairly.

Holden took over the patrol when its reputation was being besmirched by the much-reported-upon actions of a cadre of concupiscent cops who used their badges and spiffy uniforms as babe magnets.

Given that backdrop, who wouldn’t think having more women in authority positions would be a good idea?

Kim Hudson, Holden’s niece, said that since his retirement, Holden had been spending much of his time restoring a 1972 Chevy pickup truck that his father used on the family farm in Riley Hill, near Wendell. He’d painted it red and entered it in classic automobile shows, Hudson said.

Holden served as a deacon at First Baptist Church on Wilmington Street in Raleigh, which is where his funeral will be held Wednesday.

“One of the deacons told me he was driving people to their doctors’ appointments,” Hudson said. Even when he got too sick to do it himself, she said “he’d get his daughter to drive him” as he still strove to ensure that people got to their appointments.

‘Are you right?’

Logan said she recalled one specific incident years ago when Holden helped her. He was at that time a major, and she was, she said, “raging about some injustice that was done to me, how I was being treated in the patrol, and he listened and listened, and then he asked, ‘But are you right?’

“I thought about it and said, ‘Yes, sir.’ He said, ‘It sounds like you are, but just because you’re right doesn’t mean that somebody’s going to believe in what you say or do things your way.’

“To me, it meant a lot because he seemed to believe that what I was saying was actually happening,” she said.

The North Carolina Black Troopers Coalition is starting a scholarship in Holden’s honor at his alma mater, N.C. A&T State University.

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