Forgotten Savannah Police officers to be honored at police memorial

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 11:14 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - This week is National Police Week, and Tuesday the Savannah Police Department will hold its annual police memorial which will honor 58 officers who died in the line of duty.

This year’s ceremony will rewrite the history of the department after a historian discovered two forgotten fallen officers from centuries past.

The police memorial monument dates back to the end of the Civil War, but two names that were forgotten will finally be added.

A local historian shares how these two officers were killed by one of their own.

“Edward G. McNichols and James Foley were killed on April 7th, 1866 and they died in the line of duty and were shot by an off-duty police officer who had gotten drunk and they were trying to take his pistol away from him.”

Mark O’Dell, a local historian says although it happened over a hundred years ago you will recognize the streets where the crime scene happened.

“It was at what was then called the corner of Liberty and West Broad which is now Martin Luther King Junior Blvd and it was outside a bar called Nevels bar.”

O’Dell says McNichols and Foley were trying to do the right thing.

“After he got kicked out of the bar at Nevels, he was brandishing his police-issued revolver and the Edward G. McNichols the police officer tried to apprehend him. There was a struggle there and he fired into the chest of McNichols and a couple more officers came at him. Then another shot hit James Foley in the chest.”

O’Dell shows us the final resting place for officers McNichols and Foley today.

“Edward McNichols was married into this family through Marry Strafford who was a cousin of Richard Corsher and so he is buried in this lot but he doesn’t have a marker here. James Foley is buried in what was called the free ground at the time, and it was eventually closed and redesignated for paid burials and the location he is at won’t be able to be found.”

He says although their bodies can’t be found at an exact location, he is glad his discovery has led to the two to being recognized and remembered for their heroic actions on the police memorial monument, even if it was over a century ago.

“I’m very elated that it all panned out well and the police department was very ambitious to get the ball rolling getting them included in the ceremony and eventually getting their names engraved on the monument. I am honored to be the one that found this out and I’m excited to share it with the City of Savannah.”

Mark O’Dell says although it took years to discover, he is glad these two men will be honored Tuesday, and he will lay a rose in their honor.

The Police Memorial ceremony is at 10 a.m. at Habersham and Oglethorpe. WTOC will stream it live online.