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A city in mourning

Precision – military bearing – restrained emotion – these words describe the atmosphere at Southside Baptist Church Thursday when nearly 300 people paid their last respects to Greenville Police Sgt. Tony Jeffery Holder.In a service led by Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon and Rev. Don Yancey, a final tribute was paid to Holder, who recently retired from his career as a Greenville police officer after 20 years of faithful service.

Holder was hired as a patrol officer on June 19, 1981. On Feb. 7, 1996 he was promoted to the rank of Corporal and as such, was responsible for field training of new officer recruits. On June 21, 2000 Holder was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

During the latter part of Holder’s career, he served as Resource Officer at Greenville Middle School.

&uot;My earliest recollection of Tony was back when I was in the eighth grade, and he was in the seventh grade – we shared PE classes together,&uot; McLendon said. &uot;Tony was always just a ‘good guy’ who loved to laugh, and he made everyone around him feel good – he always wanted to be a police officer.&uot;

McLendon said as he was arriving recently one morning for work, he was approached by Holder in the parking lot.

&uot;Tony asked me if he could have a few moments of my time to speak with me, and I told him ‘of course’ and we went into my office. Tony told me he had always loved serving the City of Greenville as a police officer, but he was afraid that his faltering health of late would prevent him from effectively backing up his partners, causing a hazard to their safety – he decided to retire.&uot;

&uot;I first became acquainted with Tony Holder in 1971 when I taught in high school,&uot; said Rev. Don Yancey, then a teacher and now an assistant principal at Greenville High School. Tony was a great student – he liked to joke like most boys his age, but he always got along with everyone.

&uot;Tony loved children – he lived everyday to be around them, and he took great pride in the relationship he had with them,&uot; McLendon said. &uot;It was what made him get up in the morning and go to work.&uot;

McLendon said Holder was a model employee.

&uot;Every police officer eventually accumulates a personnel file – it comes with the job – people will eventually complain about an officer for doing his job. Tony’s file was extremely thin – people did not complain about him, they loved him – he was a good guy,&uot; the Mayor said. &uot;And that same description came up all the time about Tony, that he was a good guy.&uot;

As time went on though, Holder’s health began to falter. He developed a heart condition, suffering several heart attacks, and he was a diabetic.

Holder retired from the service of the Greenville Police Department on June 19, 2001, with 20 years of commended service.

He suffered a fatal heart attack just seven days later, while riding his lawn mower on June 26, 2001.

Following the service at Southside Baptist Church, a two-mile-long procession of police, sheriff and other law enforcement vehicles, as well as family and friends traveled from the church to a graveside ceremony at Hopewell Baptist Church cemetery.

With extreme precision, Holder’s casket, draped with a U.S. flag was carried to the grave by his fellow Greenville police officers.

An honor guard detail presented arms in salute as the flag was folded and presented to Holder’s son, Tony Jeffery Holder II. Trumpeter Pam McNeil, daughter of former Greenville Police Officer Deborah McNeil, played taps.

Holder is survived by two sons: Richard Wayne Edgar and Tony Jeffery Holder II, Greenville; one granddaughter: Elizabeth Victoria Edgar; two sisters: Jeanine Weekly, Bessemer, Ala.; Carol Eskridge, Mobile, Ala.; one brother: Clarence Dickens, Mobile, Ala.; several nieces and nephews.