A hero’s farewell: Winchester says goodbye to former Police Chief

Published 12:15 pm Monday, April 22, 2024

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Upon approaching George Rogers Clark High School on the morning of Saturday, April 20, the sight of numerous American flags lining the roadway indicated something notable was taking place. 

As would soon become apparent, final respects and a tribute were being paid. 

Hundreds from Winchester and surrounding counties gathered for the wake and funeral service of Sgt. Marty Jackson, also former chief of the Winchester Police Department, with many more showing respect en route to Winchester Cemetery – where Jackson was buried. 

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Jackson, 73, had responded to a call in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 14, where he felt chest pains and shortness of breath. 

He passed away from a heart attack later that evening. 

“Marty [was] a staple in the law enforcement community for [nearly] the last 50 years,” stated Pastor Lee Cruse of Grace Bible Church during the eulogy. “Marty loved this community of Winchester and wanted to make a difference.” 

After starting his career in Paris, Jackson joined the Winchester Police Department in the late 1970s, spending the next 47 years of his life serving the city and eventually being promoted to chief of Police. 

In that capacity, Cruse noted, Jackson was involved in no fewer than 17 different incidents where people were shooting at him – courageously coming back to work to serve Winchester after each encounter with danger. 

He was also actively involved with finding the best future officers, including the hiring of current Police Chief James Hall. 

On Saturday, an early morning visitation from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. took place in a room just beyond the main gymnasium with close family and fellow officers of the Winchester Police Department.

Afterward, Jackson’s casket was wheeled into the gymnasium. 

During the course of this process, as would be done on many occasions throughout the day, law enforcement funeral service rituals were observed. 

This included multiple lines of officers standing and saluting the casket as it was taken from one location to the next.

Over the next three hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., an Honor Guard consisting of multiple officers from various agencies stood guard over Jackson’s casket, with members alternating every 15 minutes, as public visitation took place. 

Along with first responders of the Winchester Police Department, representatives of the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, Winchester Fire Department and Clark County Fire Department attended. 

Departments from outside of Clark County including the Kentucky State Police, Lexington Police Department, Georgetown Police Department, Berea Police Department, Richmond Police Department, and more also participated. 


During public visitation, with a line that extended long enough for the general public to have to stand outside of the gymnasium, hundreds waited to pay respects to Jackson. 

Included among them were Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed, former Mayor Ed Burtner, City Commissioners Shannon Cox and Kitty Strode, Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates, Clark County attorney William Elkins, Clark County Coroner Neal Oliver, Clark County Public Schools Superintendent Dustin Howard and many more. 

Alongside Jackson’s casket, which was draped in an American flag, flowers and more that had been donated from various businesses and other organizations were placed. 

These included the Fraternal Order of Police Bluegrass Lodge #4, Clark County School Police, Winchester Professional Firefighters Local 1807, the City of Winchester, Glen Eden Youth Center, Woody’s Sports Bar & Grill, Rural King, Truist Bank, Sally Beauty, and many more. 

During the ceremony, which included various music numbers such as “I’ll Fly Away” by Alan Jackson – sung in unison by Jackson’s grandchildren and those in attendance – Cruse listed several of Sgt. Jackson’s character attributes. 

Among them was the fact that Jackson, who first met Cruse in the 1970s, had a positive demeanor which never changed over the years. 

The passion he had for his work was evident as well. 

“I really believe that the Lord calls others into their profession because they’re so good at it. I think law enforcement is one of those,” Cruse said. “I believe that Marty Jackson was called to be a policeman.” 

He also noted that Jackson often kept a Bible inside his squad car. 

“”He had a relationship with Christ,” Cruse said. “That’s the thing that pushed him and drove him.” 

While the service itself ended at approximately 12:00 p.m., the honor of remembering Jackson was far from over. 

Led by first responders, a procession traveled to Winchester Cemetery, first exiting left out of GRC on Boonesboro Road. 

From there, a left turn on Bypass Road took travelers to the Interstate, after which they would turn right on Exit 96 to come into downtown on Maple Street. 

The procession passed by Winchester Police Department Headquarters before taking a right on Lexington Avenue, traveling to Winchester Cemetery. 

In a moving display, hundreds if not more from Winchester and surrounding counties parked their vehicles or stood outside to pay tribute and wish farewell to Jackson. 

Some even stood overlooking the Interstate, while others waved flags – including the Thin Blue Line flag – or created posters honoring Jackson. 

Cruse spoke to Jackson’s family at the cemetery. 

“I have never seen the adoration and affection that this town has [shown],” he said. “We saw the love that this community [has].” 

Along with Cruse speaking and offering words of encouragement towards Jackson’s family, funeral customs and traditions for a fallen member of the police force – including the 21-gun salute and playing of “Taps” – continued. 

A ceremonial last call over the radio was given to honor Jackson, also recognized as Unit 38. 

The flag draping Jackson’s casket was folded, and presented to Jackson’s widow – Jeannie – by Chief Hall. 

At the end of the ceremony, others – including Jackson’s grandchildren – had one final opportunity to write a message paying tribute. 

It was fitting for a man who meant so much to so many. 

Along with his wife, Jeannie, Jackson is immediately survived by his three daughters, son, 11 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. 

Yet there are many others who will continue to remember the man who was as recognizable to Winchester as anyone. 

“Marty is also survived by a community of friends,” Cruse said.