Mourners Pay Respects to Chief

Mourners Pay Respects to Chief

Former police chief, county executive remembered as steadfast, dedicated family man.

From his early days as a sergeant in the Army to his retirement as a colonel of the Fairfax County Police Department, friends and family remembered Richard "Dick" King as a man dedicated to public safety and his family.

Mourners filled the chapel inside the Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home on Thursday, Sept. 21, for a memorial service for King, who died on Sunday, Sept. 17 in his Alexandria home and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

"There are a million stories out there about Dick, back from when he was in the trenches," said his former partner, Leonard "Buzzy" Jackson, with whom King served in the Fairfax County Police Department at the former Old Groveton Police Substation.

One of Jackson's stories was of the night that King met his future wife, Roberta.

Jackson was dating a girl in Washington, who asked him if he had a friend for her girlfriend. As the two men drove to a hotel in Washington, they came across an accident. Jackson's father was a member of the Washington Police Department, and after the accident was cleared, the two young men had a police escort to their dates.

"They met that night," said Jackson. of King and his wife, who most people call Bobby. They married a few months later, on Oct. 12, 1951.

J. HAMILTON LAMBERT, who served as Fairfax County Executive prior to King, said he had no idea what he wanted to say to honor his friend. He decided to write a letter to God on behalf of King's friends and family, some things he felt God should know about King.

"This letter is composed of the thoughts in my mind and comments that have been made in the past few days about Dick," Lambert said.

Reading from his letter, Lambert said King would always try to help other people, putting himself and his needs a distant second.

"He started out serving his family, then his country and this county ... he was never sexist or racist, he was one of the most open-minded people I've ever known," Lambert said.

He remembered standing side by side with King following Hurricane Agnes, when Lambert had just been appointed as county executive in 1972.

"He stood by me for four days, helping me to stay calm, telling me that things would go on and be fine," Lambert said.

King was a man who would go out of his way to visit officers, firemen, paramedics or county staff members if they were sick, an example of his quiet sense of class and respect.

In closing, Lambert made a small suggestion to God.

"If you have a job opening for a fair and humble man, we suggest you review his resume," Lambert said. "But he might like his pipe as a signing bonus."

Edward King, speaking at Dick King's memorial service, said his father was the kind of person people would trust with their lives, the kind that believed in hard, honest work.

"He used to tell me about carrying cinder blocks for a job as a younger man and how he used to carry two at a time in each hand," he said.

Edward King followed his father into police work, adding that his father had "made it clear that the man makes the uniform, not the other way around."

King's wife, Roberta, said her husband was an optimist, an even-tempered man who always left work frustrations at the office.

"When he came home, that was family time," she said. "You'd never know if he had a bad day at work."

WHILE AT HOME, Dick King was something of a handyman, Roberta King said.

"He liked to do yard work, any kind of Harry Homeowner stuff," she laughed. "He'd vacuum, cook, anything that needed to be done, he did it."

Dick King had served in the Franconia District Station for several years before being named police chief for Fairfax County, and Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) said he remembers King as a man who always had an answer for any question, but didn't waste time with small talk.

"There wasn't time for small talk in a life-or-death situation," Kauffman said. "That skill is what made him so good at public safety issues."

"He was a wonderful man," said Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield). "He was my buddy and I loved him."

A long-time friend of the King family, Anne McDonald said she and her husband, Pat, were surprised to see a bouquet of flowers in their son's Hagerstown hospital room after an accident in 1991.

"I hadn't even told half of our family he'd been in an accident, and Dick had already sent flowers," Anne McDonald said. "He was constantly there to do anything he could for anyone."

Jean Van Devanter White, another friend of the family, said King was "quiet, extremely humble but at the same time he was very strong, especially in a crisis situation."

His family was always the top priority to him, she said, as evidenced by his leaving work to go to his son Edward's baseball games or practice.

"He might leave work early, but he'd always come back. He was always there on nights and weekends when he was working for Fairfax County," White said.

Dick King is survived by his wife of 49 years, Roberta; son, Edward, and daughter-in-law, Shannon, of Falling Waters, W.Va.; grandchildren Nicholas Alan and Madeline Renee King; one sister, Patricia Sidelinker, and several nieces and nephews.