Local News

Hoke Sheriff Dr. Hubert Peterkin dies during surgical procedure

Posted October 23, 2021 3:21 a.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2021 1:51 p.m. EDT

Family, friends, colleagues and neighbors are mourning the loss of a long-time law enforcement officer.

Dr. Hubert A. Peterkin, who had been sheriff in Hoke County since 2002, died late Friday during a surgical procedure, a source told WRAL News.

WRAL News has been told that Peterkin had cancer.

Peterkin's sister, Hazel Peterkin Ware, posted to Facebook, "This is unbelievable. Please keep the Peterkin family in prayer."

Peterkin was a law enforcement officer for more than 30 years, serving in the Fayetteville Police Department before he joined the sheriff's office. He was elected sheriff in 2002, and was re-elected for his fifth term in 2018.

He got his bachelor's degree from Liberty University, and held a master's degree in public administration and a doctorate in management from the University of Phoenix, according to his bio on the sheriff's office website.

"I'm deeply sorry and saddened to learn about the passing of Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement on Twitter. "He worked diligently to protect the people of his county in addition to making a significant difference for good in public safety throughout our state as President of the NC Sheriffs Association. We will miss him and his leadership and we grieve for his family."

In 2015, he was elected president of the N.C. Sheriff's Association and awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the state of North Carolina and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments.

A lifelong resident of Hoke County, Peterkin was a tireless advocate for his community, showing support recently on social media for a local band competing on "America's Got Talent," and posting to urge people to vote in local elections.

Peterkin worked closely with the family of George Floyd after Floyd's 2020 death to organize a memorial service watched by the nation.

"Everyone here is doing everything they can in this community to make sure we embrace this family," he said at the time. "Don't let the life of George Floyd be in vain."

North Carolina leaders mourn loss of Sheriff Hubert Peterkin

Leaders across the state began sharing their condolences and memories after news of Peterkin's death began spreading between Friday evening and Saturday morning.

“He was a phenomenal law enforcement officer that took his oath very seriously,” said Moore County Chief Deputy Richard Maness, who knew Peterkin for years. “We lost a friend, a mentor, an icon in law enforcement. just an all-around great human being.”

Cumberland County Sheriff Ennis Wright wrote, "Sending all our love, support, prayers and deepest condolences to the Hoke County Sheriff's Office & the family of Sheriff Hubert Peterkin."

The NC Sheriff's Association also responded, writing that they were "heartbroken to learn of the sudden passing of Dr. Hubert Peterkin." Eddie Caldwell, the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the Association, said Peterkin told him he wouldn't be able to attend a meeting on Wednesday. Caldwell called Peterkin "a giant in the law enforcement community."

“Sheriff Peterkin was a wonderful person, a close friend and an outstanding sheriff. He was a role model for sheriffs and law-enforcement professionals across the state, and his passing is a tremendous loss. We all will support his wife Della, his family and his Sheriff’s Office personnel and I encourage everyone to keep them in your thoughts and prayers," said Sheriff Ed McMahon, President of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association.

Friends said Peterkin was very open about his love for the people of Hoke County. Peterkin also spoke loudly at a Memorial for George Floyd last summer and what Floyd’s death meant for law enforcement.

“We can’t afford to have one or two percent doing the mess we are doing right now,” Peterkin said at the memorial.

In an April interview for WRAL’s On The Record, Peterkin said Floyd’s death highlighted a need for transparency in law enforcement.

“We have to speak out on it," he said. "We have to talk about it. We have to be transparent. There is no way to hide and my rule has always been if it is bad, tell the story. if it is good, tell the story.”