Gowdy lauds deputy who gave all in Fort Smith

Marshals Museum a way of saying thanks, congressman says

Posted: April 21, 2017 at 1 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (left), R-S.C., and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., speak to the media Thursday before Gowdy's speech, part of the Winthrop Paul Rockefeller Distinguished Lecture Series presented by the U.S. Marshals Museum, at the Fort Smith Convention Center.

FORT SMITH -- U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy on Thursday called the proposed U.S. Marshals Museum a living monument to the men and women willing to dedicate their lives to law enforcement.

Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, spoke to about 1,100 people in the second installment of the Winthrop Paul Rockefeller Distinguished Lecture Series at the Fort Smith Convention Center. His friend and congressional colleague, 3rd District Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, introduced Gowdy.

"Thank you for building a monument for women and men who are willing to do what most of us are unwilling to do," Gowdy said during his 20-minute address.

He said the museum, for which funds are still being raised, would be a way to thank members of the Marshals Service for the dedication to their jobs.

Gowdy said expressing gratitude to those in law enforcement is important. He spoke about when he was a prosecutor in Spartanburg County, S.C., and sheriff's Deputy Kevin Carper and his partner were sent to a domestic dispute where a husband was pointing a gun at his wife.

After the officers arrived, the husband shot the wife and Carper, who was on the porch, shot and wounded the husband. Checking on the wounded husband, Carper discovered that a child inside the home had been in the line of his fire and had been wounded, Gowdy said.

Carper, a husband and father, was bothered that he had hurt the child even though Gowdy assured him he'd acted properly when the officer shot the husband.

Gowdy said he was impressed by the professionalism and the humanity Carper displayed while testifying at the husband's murder trial.

Carper left before the end of the trial, but Gowdy said he made a mental note to seek out the officer afterward and compliment him as an example for the community.

The next time Gowdy saw Carper, the officer was laying dead on a county road. He had been shot by a man he chased while trying to make a routine traffic stop.

"I'm really grateful to you all for not waiting too late," he said. "What you are doing today takes care of all the tomorrows for those of us who ought to have called but never did."

Among those attending Thursday's lecture were U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, both R-Ark., Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and former Marshals Service Director Stacia Hylton.

Rockefeller's widow, Lisenne Rockefeller, decided to underwrite the lecture series to raise awareness of plans to build the Marshals Museum. The lecture series was set up to fund three speeches, one from leading members of each branch of the federal government.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave the inaugural lecture in February 2015. The final lecture, which will feature a member of the executive branch, has not been scheduled.

Gowdy recalled the one time he met with Scalia, during the justice's dinner with several other congressmen. He said he asked Scalia how the courts should react to legislative overreach, to which Scalia replied that the courts would not do the legislative branch's job.

He said Scalia told him the legislative branch had tools, punishments and powers and had to "stick up for itself."

"'Do not expect the judicial branch to come in and referee fights between you and the executive branch,'" Gowdy recalled Scalia saying.

The United States is unique in being a nation of laws with branches of the government to make and enforce the laws, Gowdy said, and he noted that the Marshals Service was the oldest federal law enforcement entity with the broadest jurisdiction of any law enforcement agency in the country.

The law makes the richest man in Arkansas and the poorest drive at the same speed and pay their taxes by the same deadline, Gowdy said, and it serves as a sword citizens can use to gain access to their rights and as a shield from fellow citizens and the government.

But the law is not self-sustaining, he said. Laws, especially those people disagree with, cannot be ignored and it takes more courage to follow laws people oppose. Weakening the law weakens it forever, he said.

"It disrespects the law to not take the time to change it, to make it reflect whatever the collective conscience is today," Gowdy said.

The effort to build the U.S. Marshals Service's national museum in Fort Smith has raised about $35 million of the $60 million needed to build, equip and operate the museum on the banks of the Arkansas River. The opening date for the museum is scheduled for Sept. 24, 2019, to coincide with the Marshals Service's 230th anniversary.

The 50,000-square-foot museum will include three permanent exhibit galleries, a temporary exhibit gallery, the Samuel M. Sicard Hall of Honor that honors those killed in the line of duty, and a National Learning Center.

NW News on 04/21/2017