BUCKHANNON – City officials paid tribute to longtime public servant Buddy Ray Zickefoose during the sixth annual Webb Grubb Police Officer Recognition Day last week amid the West Virginia Strawberry Festival.
Police officers, firefighters and community members gathered Wednesday, May 17, in front of the Blue Wall at the Public Safety Complex to recognize Zickefoose for his service to both the Buckhannon Police Department and the Buckhannon Fire Department.
Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory provided an overview of Zickefoose’s career in both departments.
“Buddy Ray Zickefoose served the City of Buckhannon Police Department from 1963 to 1966, and at that point, he was already a member of the fire department, but he moved to full-time at the fire department, where he spent the next several years before retiring in 2001,” Gregory said. “Not only do we honor your service and your commitment to the police department, but also to all public safety.”
“This Blue Wall has served as a memorial to the sacrifice made by Webb Grubb, but now it is also a testimony to the commitment of the folks who have worn the badge and served the City of Buckhannon. We thank you for your service,” the police chief added.
Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner said the city recognizes outstanding police and firefighters yearly during the West Virginia Strawberry Festival.
“This has become an annual celebration – law enforcement on Wednesday, the fire department on Friday – where we honor our public safety officials who keep us safe and allow us to sleep well at night in our community,” Skinner said. “This is, without a doubt, a very safe community, mostly because of the great people who live here, but also because of our police officers who work around the clock here, from this building and throughout our city.”
Skinner said the Buckhannon Police Department is officially fully staffed after three new officers – Wade Loudin, Jonathan Warner and Dylan Major – graduated from the police academy recently.
“A couple of weeks ago, the chief, lieutenant (Lt. Doug Loudin), and I drove to Charleston, and we welcomed three new police officers to our ranks here in Buckhannon,” Skinner said. “We are finally at full staff, which hasn’t happened for quite some time due to the pandemic and due to transfers and retirements, so we’re happy to be one of the few cities with a fully-staffed department. I just got back from [West Virginia [Municipal League], and everybody’s talking about how they’re down police officers and firefighters.”
Gregory reviewed the history of police officer Wilbert H. “Webb” Grubb and how he was killed in the line of duty April 21, 1940.
“Our Blue Wall was dedicated in 2017 in memory of Webb Grubb, the original honoree, who is the only city police officer who has ever been killed in the line of duty, and that occurred back in 1941, in an incident that would be construed as a domestic violence call that he received to respond to the Camden Avenue area,” he said.
Gregory outlined the events that transpired that evening, ultimately leading to Grubb’s death.
“The complaint was that a gentleman by the name of Byzantine Hartman assaulted his mother, and as Officer Grubb arrived at the scene, Hartman was waiting in ambush and shot Officer Grubb, who was wounded from the initial gunshot,” he recounted. “Hartman then approached Officer Grubb, who was down on the ground and shot him in the head, fatally killing him. He then stole Officer Grubb’s cruiser and fled into town and crashed just on the other side of City Hall, along the riverbank.”
Hartman was caught soon after crashing Grubb’s vehicle and was held in the Lewis County Jail.
“He was tried and convicted of the murder of Webb Grubb in May, the very next month, and sentenced to hang because West Virginia was still a death penalty state at the time, and the death penalty was carried out by hanging in Moundsville the very next month in June of 1940,” Gregory said.
The police chief recognized Zickefoose’s public service and the sacrifice Grubb made on that fateful day.
“We remember his ultimate sacrifice on this day, as we do each day, and we welcome those folks who gathered here to honor the memory of Webb Grubb and in honor of all the other officers who have served the City of Buckhannon in the capacity of police officers,” Gregory said. “We welcome the family of Webb Grubb, who is with us today, and we thank them for the many contributions they’ve made in memory of their relative, many of which are on display in our lobby, along with the story of his sacrifice, and we welcome our past honorees who have come back to join us today.”
In 2018, the city honored retired Lt. Keith Rowan, Chief Fred Gaudet in 2019, Lt. Darrell Bennett in 2021, and Upshur County’s former sheriff, the late David Coffman, in 2022.
The proclamation read by Mayor Robbie Skinner appears in full below:
WHEREAS, our Buckhannon and Upshur County community is proud to honor our police officers who protect and serve while placing their lives on the line with every shift they work; and,
WHEREAS, on May 17, 2017, the City of Buckhannon resolved to recognize and pay tribute to all police officers on each Wednesday of our annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival. We first honored Wilbert H. “Webb” Grubb, whom this day of recognition is named in 2017. He is the only City police officer to die in the line of duty, giving his life for our community on April 21, 1940. In 2018, we followed by honoring Lieutenant Keith Rowan, Chief Fred Gaudet in 2019, Lieutenant Darrell Bennett in 2021, and our former Upshur County Sheriff David Coffman in 2022; and,
WHEREAS, today, May 17, 2023, our City celebrates the 6th annual Webb Grubb Police Officer Recognition Day, honoring former City Police (and City Fire) Officer Buddy Ray Zickefoose. We encourage all of Buddy Ray’s family members, former fellow officers, friends, and admirers, as well as those of Officer Grubb, and our actively serving police officers, to pay tribute and celebrate his accomplishments today during this ceremony; and,
WHEREAS, our City further shall add Officer Buddy Ray Zickefoose to its “Wall of Blue” – in honor of and tribute to Officer Grubb, Lieutenant Rowan, Chief Gaudet, Lieutenant Bennett, Sheriff Coffman, and future honorees during Webb Grubb Police Officer Recognition Days ahead.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, ROBERT NEAL SKINNER, III, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF BUCKHANNON, pursuant to the power and authority duly vested in me, do hereby proclaim today, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, to be “WEBB GRUBB POLICE OFFICER RECOGNITION DAY” throughout our City of Buckhannon. I further proclaim that our 2023 honoree shall be Buddy Ray Zickefoose who served our City for a total of 38 years: as a City Police Officer from 1963 to 1966, and a City Firefighter from 1964 to 2001. I hereby direct the installation of Officer Zickefoose’s placard along Webb Grubb Lane at our Public Safety Complex to forever honor and recognize Buddy Ray Zickefoose together with the aforementioned police officers listed above, as well as all future honorees for their service, and for protecting our Buckhannon and Upshur County community.
I urge all residents and festival visitors alike to join the family and friends of Buddy Ray Zickefoose, together with the family of Officer Grubb, Chief Gregory, our City of Buckhannon Police Officers, myself, members of our City Council, and entire community as we celebrate his service to the City of Buckhannon, today at our 6th annual “Webb Grubb Police Officer Recognition Day” ceremony.
Given under my hand and official seal of the City of Buckhannon, this 17th day of May 2023.
Robert Neal Skinner, III
Mayor, City of Buckhannon