03/22/09 — Memories recalled of city's first black chief

View Archive

Memories recalled of city's first black chief

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 22, 2009 2:00 AM

Full Size

Chester Hill

Before it became state law to be "buckled up," one of Goldsboro's police chiefs resisted an order from City Hall to wear a seat belt.

Not because he objected to the improved safety.

Because it would have wrinkled his shirt.

Former Goldsboro Police Chief Chester Hill died Wednesday at the age of 65. His funeral was held Saturday.

Hill was the first black to serve as the chief of the Goldsboro Police Department.

Besides being a pioneer, role model and a dedicated lawman, Hill was a stickler for regulations and a man who believed it was important to always present a professional image.

His shirts were crisp with starch, his face always properly groomed, and he expected other officers to follow suit, current police Chief Tim Bell said.

Even before it was officially law to wear a seat belt in North Carolina, the city of Goldsboro instituted a policy requiring city employees to wear them.

Hill resisted, worried about what the belt would do to his uniform.

But that was just Hill's nature, police department Operations Maj. Mike Hopper said. Hill was meticulous and believed it was important for the chief of police to project a commanding image.

"He was very well-dressed, and he presented a real sharp image," Hopper said.

Hopper knew Hill because the men's families both lived in the Belfast community.

The police major remembers the man who would later serve as his chief had his first job at Belk's Department Store.

Hopper called Hill a "by-the-book man." So did the current chief.

"You know, he was fair, but the law was the law," Bell said. "And he had very high standards for himself and for the other officers up here to be above reproach, which you know, you should be.

"I remember he would always put the department first if he made a decision, and he wouldn't make a decision to make him look good -- he'd always look out for the department first," Bell said.

Richard Slozak was city manager when Hill was promoted to chief. Slozak recalled him Saturday as a man of character who was quietly passionate about his work.

"Chester loved the department like his family," Slozak said. Hill was straightforward and firm.

"He stood by what he believed," Slozak said.

Hill retired from the police department on Feb. 1, 1999, after more than 30 years of service.

His history as a policeman began Sept. 9, 1968, when he started his career in Goldsboro as a patrolman, the chief said.

He was first promoted to captain on Feb. 11, 1981, then records supervisor on July 1, 1982. He was records supervisor for less than a month before becoming the major of support services, on July 21, 1982.

Then, in July 1987, he was promoted to assistant chief of police, a position that no longer exists in the department.

Then, in 1992, he became the department's chief. He retired in 1999.

Besides the pictures of Hill featured on yearly portraits in one of the police department's inner hallways, Bell had also maintained another remnant of Hill's time as a ranking officer, in 1988, when he was assistant chief.

It was a quote from Hill in a newspaper.

Hill is quoted saying, "I think training is an ongoing thing and I think an officer should take pride in his work. We have to be fair, persistent and honest. Perhaps what it all boils down to for an effective department is attitude, common sense and good training."