Lebanon’s finest lost one of its finest on Christmas Day.
Retired police Capt. Jerry Pruitte, 58, passed away Wednesday following a long illness.
Pruitte had retired from the department in June 2012 after more than 30 years of service.
“He started here full time in 1982, but actually started in 1979 as an auxiliary officer,” said Chief Scott Bowen. “He actually worked for 2-3 years for free [as an auxiliary officer].”
According to Bowen, Pruitte started in patrol and quickly worked his way up the ranks.
“The majority of his time here, he spent as a supervisor,” said Bowen.
Pruitte, a Lebanon native, was well known throughout town for his generosity and strong moral compass.
“He was one of those people who would give you the shirt off his back,” said Bowen.
He said Pruitte and his family often quietly helped those less fortunate, donating food and Christmas items for people who couldn’t afford them.
“They lost a good policeman when he retired, and now they’ve lost a heck of a citizen,” said District Attorney Tommy Thompson.
According to Thompson, he and Pruitte met when Thompson first became an assistant district attorney in the early ‘70s.
He said Pruitte often came to him for advice on the appropriate ways to handle different legal situations.
“He kind of had an old-time philosophy – there’s never a right time to do a wrong thing and never a wrong time to do a right thing,” said Thompson. “Back when Lebanon was a little more political than it is now – there were power brokers…That didn’t bother him at all; he arrested who needed to be arrested.”
But he also tried to treat everyone he encountered fairly. Thompson recalled one of his first encounters with Pruitte.
“He had arrested somebody and they had the money to make a bond, but at the time it was such that only certain people could make bonds in the city and certain in the county,” said Thompson.
They weren’t going to accept the bond money, so Pruitte placed a late-night phone call to Thompson.
“He was all torn to pieces because he was going to have to put the person in jail, and he thought it was really wrong,” said Thompson. “I told him any bondsman could make the bond that’s approved by the court. He called me back and said they still weren’t going to let him. I told him to tell them that if I had to get up and put my shoes on and go down there, they were really going to regret it.”
Thompson didn’t have to go down there, and Pruitte never forgot his help. The men remained friends ever since.
“There wasn’t a finer man in any way,” said Thompson.
Although Pruitte is known for his law enforcement career, his top priority was always family – his wife of 40 years, Marcia, their daughter, Tracy Underwood, their sons Jerimy and Jason and their five grandchildren.
“His family was his first love, and this department was his second love,” said Bowen.
And thanks to his sons, Jerimy and Jason, his family will continue to make its mark in the department he loved.
Jerimy, who has been with the department 10 years, is a corporal in patrol; Jason, who has been with the department nine years, works in the narcotics unit.
“His boys will continue on that name here at the police department,” said Bowen.
Services will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at The Church of God Worship and Ministry Center, located at 1007 Hartsville Pike in Lebanon, with interment immediately following in Wilson County Memorial Gardens. Pruitte’s family will receive friends at the center on Friday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Lebanon Police Department Honor Guard will serve as pallbearers.