Mr. Eck, McDonough's first police car and a horse
By Jeff Reeves
In the 1950’s and 60’s McDonough had one of the most popular and colorful policemen on their staff, Mr. Eck Brannan. Mr. Eck was the tallest and biggest policeman that was in the department at the time. Mr. Eck was seven feet tall and wore a 15-1/2 eee size shoe. If you asked Mr. Eck how tall he was, he would reply 6 feet, 9 inches.
If you were a child growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in McDonough you probably remember Mr. Eck. If he saw a child up on the Square he would go over and pull his plastic change holder out and give you some money. Mr. Eck was very kind and we were always glad to see him.
Homer Upchurch was police chief back then and he, Mr. Eck and Knot Lunsford were the police department in 1952. The Police Shack, as we called it, was on the Square at the time. It was a very small building with a shelf for a desk, one chair, a telephone and a hat rack and that was it. It had windows all around it and was painted white. When Mr. Eck occupied it there was not much room left for another person.
As a child I remember Mr. Eck very well. He was the tallest person I had ever seen and I would see him daily on the McDonough Square. In the evening he would go around to all the stores and grab the door handles and shake the door until I thought he was going to shake it right off its hinges. He never did of course and I don’t ever remember any store ever getting robbed with him on duty. I’m sure that anybody who thought about doing something like that did not want to have to deal with Mr. Eck.
Mr. Eck very rarely locked someone up in jail. He had his own way of dealing with people. If he caught you doing something wrong, he would take you down to the jailhouse and give you a good talking to. He said that it usually took care of itself and he never would have any trouble with that person again!
One day in 1952 Darry Cook, who was 16 at the time, was going in to work for Dr. Ward at Ward Drug Co. on the south side of the Square. Darry heard someone yell across the street. When Darry looked over in that direction he saw Mr. Eck standing in front of the Police Shack yelling “Come here boy.” Darry crossed the street to see what Mr. Eck wanted. When Darry got there Mr. Eck asked him if he would drive him to a call. He told Darry that they had just gotten a new 1952 Chevrolet police car and that his knees rubbed against the dash and made his knees uncomfortable. Darry said he would be glad to help out.
So Darry got behind the wheel and Mr. Eck got in on the passenger side. Mr. Eck instructed Darry to drive southwest of the Square about two to three miles. When Darry and Mr. Eck arrived at the location they saw two grown men fighting.
Instead of Mr. Eck getting out of the car to break up the fight, Mr. Eck told Darry to pull up to where they were fighting. Mr. Eck rolled down his window and ordered the men to stop fighting and get in the back seat of the police car, which they did! One look at Mr. Eck was all it took to make you give up!
Mr. Eck told Darry to drive back to the jail, which was on the north side of the Square. They all pulled up in front of the jail. Mr. Eck and the two men got out and went inside the jail. Darry got out and walked across the Square and went in the front door of Ward Drug Co., continuing on to work as if nothing had ever happened!
The most popular story I heard about Mr. Eck, and I heard it many times, was that one time he found out about a moonshine still in Henry County and one day they decided to raid the still.
When they arrived at the still the operator happened to be there and decided to run instead of giving up. Well, the operator took off running through a cornfield and Mr. Eck was chasing him from the other side of some corn stalks. Mr. Eck finally caught up with him and the man had to go to court before a judge. The judge asked the man why had he stopped running and given up. The operator replied, “Well, Judge, when I figured out that policeman was on a horse, I knew I could not outrun that horse.” Little did he know, Mr. Eck was running just like him. The operator could only see Mr. Eck’s head bobbing up and down on top of the cornstalks and just assumed he was on a horse. Even if Mr. Eck wasn’t on a horse, he would still have caught him. That man was taking two to three steps every time Mr. Eck stepped once.
Jeff Reeves is a lifelong resident of McDonough and has recently joined the Times as an advertising sales representative. He and his wife Betsy have one son.