Adventurous career ends

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, June 15, 2023

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GATESVILLE – He has sailed the high seas in search of drug smugglers.

He has served as a bodyguard for two North Carolina governors and was a member of security details protecting five U.S. Presidents during their trips to the Tar Heel State.

And in his home county of Gates, his public service is exemplary: holding the rank of Captain within the Sheriff’s Office; a two-term member of the county’s Board of Commissioners (including a stint as chairman); is the President of the Gates Volunteer Fire Department; President of the Gates Ruritan Club; and Chairman of the county’s Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Ray Freeman has seen a lot over the course of his life and plans to continue to remain actively engaged with local organizations. He has, however, chosen to close out his law enforcement career, one that began in 1969.

“I’ve been a sworn officer for 54 years,” he said. “I think the time is right to retire from full-time law enforcement.”

Freeman’s last official day on the job was June 10.

From the outset of his professional life, Freeman didn’t aspire for a career in law enforcement.

After graduating from Gatesville High School in 1962, Freeman obtained a pre-med degree in college and had aspirations to become a veterinarian. However, while in college he was recruited by the FBI and the SBI. He chose to join the North Carolina SBI in 1969.

“My plan back then was to work with them for five years and then return to college and finish up the requirements to become a veterinarian,” Freeman recalled. “Well, five years became ten, ten became fifteen and so on. The next thing I know, fifty-plus years have come and gone.

“I’m so glad that I chose a career in law enforcement. I’ve had the good fortune to meet and work with so many good people,” he added.

As part of his near 20-year stint with the SBI, Freeman served as a bodyguard for Governor Bob Scott and Governor Jim Hunt. Meanwhile, he was part of SBI security details while five presidents were visiting North Carolina: Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

After leaving the SBI, Freeman was appointed as the Commander of a multi-jurisdiction Federal Task Force fighting organized crime. It was through that organization where Freeman led an effort to disrupt the flow of marijuana and cocaine being smuggled into the continental United States.

“We interrupted a lot of drug traffic, put a lot of smugglers in prison,” Freeman said.

Over the course of his state/federal law enforcement career, Freeman was twice honored as the Officer of the Year in North Carolina.

The job with the Federal Task Force ended after a nine-year successful run. From there, Freeman became Chief of Police at Craven Regional Hospital, overseeing a staff of 17 officers.

He came back to Gates County in 2008, and was hired four years later by then Sheriff Ed Webb and continued working under Sheriff Ray Campbell where he rose to the rank of Captain.

“I guess I was cut out for a life of public service as my mother was a school teacher and my father delivered mail,” Freeman said. “Of all my stops along the way, I can say that the most rewarding portion of my career has been to serve and protect the citizens of Gates County – my home county.”

While he plans to remain involved with his local civic duties, Freeman is hopeful to have the time to write a book.

“It will be an autobiography about my career in law enforcement, sharing stories about all the investigative work it takes to bring a case to court, but I also plan to share some of the funny stories as well,” he concluded.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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