Local News

Hunt Names New NC Highway Patrol Commander

Posted February 25, 1999

— Governor Jim Hunt has named Lieutenant Colonel Richard Holden Sr. the new commander of theNorth Carolina Highway Patrol.Holden, a Cary resident, is the first African American to hold the post.

Governor Hunt wanted to find the right person for the job. He interviewed candidates personally and even instituted background checks for the first time. Friday, North Carolina met his choice, Lt. Col Holden.

Holden was one of the original six African Americans to join the Highway Patrol back in 1969 and has been with the patrol ever since.

"It was a lot of anxiety, because knowing when I came on that it wasn't many minority people on the patrol. You didn't know what to expect," Holden explained.

Three decades later a lot has changed, and Holden got the position.

"It was about 7:30 when I got the word from the governor this morning," Holden said.

That was the first word Holden had that he'd been chosen for the job.

"It is very much an honor and it's a great organization that I belong to. I'm real pleased and real happy to be part of this organization," Holden said. "We have an outstanding organization doing great work. I'm real pleased to be named the Colonel, real honored to be named the Colonel."

Lt. Col. Holden will have to overcome the mistrust left behind by his predecessors.

Interim Commander Lt. Col. Coy Blackman admittedthat a Department of Transportation board member gave him free use of a car for two years. Blackman returned the car to its owner, and remained a candidate for the top trooper's job.

Col. E.W. Horton retired last yearamid allegations he accepted free building materials for his house.

Col. Robert Barefoot resigned in 1995 over his friendship with the leader of a stolen goods ring.

But Holden says the past problems will not make his job any more difficult.

"The job as a Colonel is somewhat difficult, but with all the support and help and cooperation of everyone that's working in the organization, and the public, I think it'll be a much easier job to do," he said.

Holden plans on making no wholesale changes.

"I do want to look at the patrol's overall operation and go from there, but I'll be looking at operational things initially, but won't be making any wholesale changes at this present time," Holden said.

Ironically, as the organization's first African American leader, he will have to answer a tough question from theGeneral Assembly: Do troopers discriminate when they pull over drivers?

"I really don't feel we have a problem with that, but if we do, I think we need to correct it and remove those people who are doing those types of things," explained Holden.

Holden knows his new job will be a tough one, but he says he will tackle it the same way he has other obstacles in his career.

"When people see that you're willing to do the right kinds of things and that you want to be given an opportunity to do things, you tend to have good people who want to support and help you," Holden explained.

Lt. Col. Holden is a native of Wendell. He attended N.C. A&T State University.

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