Sgt. Taylor’s final salute

William R. Toler | Daily Journal Deputies from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office salute one of their own, Sgt. Lee Taylor, as his casket is loaded into a hearse following a Friday funeral.

William R. Toler | Daily Journal Deputies Corey Jones and Brian Ingram, part of the six-man honor guard, fire their last of three shots during a salute to a fallen comrade.

William R. Toler | Daily Journal Taylor’s funeral was attended by deputies and police officers from several other counties, as well as local troopers with the N.C. Highway Patrol.

HOFFMAN — With the sound of rifle fire echoing through the Blue Family Cemetery, Sgt. Lee Taylor was laid to rest.

Three shots rang out from each of the rifles fired by the six-member Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard to pay tribute to one of their own, who died unexpectedly at the beginning of the week.

Taylor was a 15-year veteran of the department, having previously worked with the N.C. Department of Corrections and served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army. His entire 35-year career involved some aspect of law enforcement.

Deputies from the Moore County Sheriff’s Office assisted with traffic control, guiding the grieving into the parking lot of Marston Baptist Church for the funeral.

The honor guard formed a corridor along the sidewalk leading to the front doors of the church as Taylor’s family entered the sanctuary. The detail soon followed in single-file.

Paying their respects, around 70 people packed the church’s fellowship hall, which served as an overflow room. Others stood in the hallway.

Taylor’s funeral was attended by first responders from around the county, including the Hoffman Volunteer Fire Department, of which he was a member.

In addition to members of Richmond County’s law enforcement community, several other agencies were represented, including the Southern Pines and Aberdeen police departments, the sheriff’s offices of Alamance, Brunswick, Scotland and Union counties, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the state Highway Patrol.

The Fire Station Boys, a group Taylor played guitar in, performed several songs — “In the Sweet By and By,” “Man in the Middle” and “The Wall” — during the service.

“He was the kind of guy who fit in wherever he went,” said the Rev. Mitchell Roller, one of two clergymen who were officiating the funeral.

Roller said although Taylor was “rough around the edges” and “aggravating at times” — which elicited laughter from the crowd — “there was something about Lee that was a little softer than that outer shell.”

As the flag-covered casket was wheeled out to the waiting hearse, officers from the multiple departments saluted.

The funeral procession was led by his brother W.D. Taylor — a retired RCSO detective — driving his patrol car to the burial site.

Motorcycle officers from the Winston-Salem Police Department assisted in blocking the traffic on U.S. 1.

As the procession turned onto Seaboard Street, trucks from the Hamlet and Rockingham fire departments sat on each side of the road, forming an archway with an American flag suspended between the ladders.

Following the rifle salute, the flag was removed from the casket and ceremoniously folded. Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. then presented it to Taylor’s mother.

Taylor was 53 years old.

Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.