Barry Gammons knows well the unimaginable grief felt by Master Patrol Officer Spencer Bristol’s family.
Gammons was just seven years old when his mom came into his bedroom and told him his father, a Hendersonville reserve officer, was sick and that she needed to go see him in the hospital.
A neighbor came over to stay with the young boy until his mother returned home.
“I was still in my room and I heard her come in,” recalls Gammons, who is now 52. “I heard this unbelievable wailing and I heard what sounded like male voices in the living room. It’s absolutely a memory that won’t go away. It was just a horrific night.”
It wasn’t long before Gammons was told that his father had suffered a fatal heart attack while pursuing a suspect on foot.
The year was 1974 and Hendersonville’s relatively young police department relied heavily on reserve officers like Gammons who went through the police academy like all police officers – and faced the same dangers.
At 38, Ivory James Gammons became the city’s first officer to die in the line of duty. Since then, four other officers, including Bristol, have lost their lives: Sgt. Richard Bandy (1980); Sgt. Jody Sadek (1988) and Officer Daniel MacClary (2000).
Barry Gammons, now a Nashville attorney, says he had talked about establishing a scholarship in his father’s name with Chief Mickey Miller, but the two never pinned down the specifics.
He hopes to change that soon after Bristol’s death on Dec. 30.
Gammons learned from media reports that Bristol, like his father died during a foot pursuit. And, like his father, Bristol left behind a young widow and a young child.
“The parallels just hit me square in the eyes,” said Gammons. “I knew I needed to do something.”
Gammons has created an Ivory James Gammons memorial scholarship fund and intends to make Bristol’s daughter, who is now three, the first recipient. He’s contributing $10,000 and hopes the fund will grow as others donate to it.
Gammons says he hopes to meet with Miller in the next couple of weeks and establish guidelines for the fund.
He knows that there are other fundraisers to help the family. A Gofundme page has raised more than $100,000 and the 100 Club of Sumner County continues to raise money for the family’s long-term expenses as well. Several local businesses and restaurants have either hosted fundraisers or plan to host them for Bristol’s family in the near future.
“I’m not trying to compete with anybody or take away from what they’re doing,” Gammons added. “This is just something I felt lead to do.”
Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Ivory James Gammons Memorial Scholarship account may do so at any Pinnacle Bank location.