YORK COUNTY, S.C. (Rock Hill Herald) - The Moss Justice Center courthouse in York quivered inside with grief Thursday after the legendary courthouse chief bailiff was killed in a crash on his way to work.
Charles “Doodie” Dunlap, 77, died in a two-vehicle crash on S.C 5 near the courthouse, police and coroner officials said. Dunlap worked at the court for two decades after retiring as a deputy at the York County Sheriff’s Office.
York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said Dunlap was killed in a crash with another vehicle.
In all, Dunlap served in law enforcement and the fire service for about 50 years, officials said.
Dunlap worked serving the public in emergency response and law enforcement up to his death, said Kevin Tolson, York County Sheriff. Dunlap started with the sheriff’s office in 1973 and proudly wore his badge the rest of his life, Tolson said.
“When anyone talks about a public servant, Mr. Dunlap’s name was always at the top of the list,” Tolson said. ‘This is a man who spent his entire adult life serving the public any way that he could. His loss hurts not just those of us who knew him well, but anyone who ever met him at the courts. He was a friend to all.”
S.C. Highway Patrol trooper Joe Hovis said Dunlap died at the scene of the crash around 6:40 a.m. Thursday after a truck crossed the center line and collided with Dunlap’s SUV.
The other driver was hurt and transported to a hospital for treatment, Hovis said. The crash remains under investigation, Hovis said.
Before becoming a deputy, Dunlap was a firefighter for the City of Rock Hill for several years, officials said. Dunlap worked as a patrol deputy from 1973 until retiring in 1995, according to the sheriff’s office. He then worked as a court bailiff for the sheriff’s office and clerk of court.
Dunlap was among the first African Americans hired as deputies at the sheriff’s office, Dunlap said in past interviews with The Herald.
Dunlap’s deep voice that called out “Order,” in York County courtrooms became a legendary signal to all that court was in session.
Court officials said Dunlap was known as the best dressed man in the courthouse, and that included the judges and lawyers.
“You could always depend on him to be the best dressed man in the courtroom,” said Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Solicitor.
The Moss Justice Center is home to two buildings with hundreds of employees in law enforcement, the county jail, and criminal courts. Brackett said Dunlap’s passing is a mournful day for all in York County.
“Mr. Dunlap was a public servant and a great man,” Brackett said. “Mr. Dunlap was a beloved member of our courthouse family. You could always depend on him to be cheerful and helpful no matter how stressful the situation. He is more of a fixture than the witness stand and we are all in shock at this sudden and terrible loss.
“Charles “Doodie” Dunlap his entire life to serving the people of York County, and the people of York County and here at the courthouse are poorer because of his tragic death.”
York County’s circuit court judges were deeply saddened by Dunlap’s death.
Retired Judge John C. Hayes III, who worked with Dunlap for decades, said Dunlap was a courthouse legend who will be missed.
“He had an unassuming way and a great sense of humor,” Hayes said. “He and I enjoyed ribbing each other. He was a loved courthouse figure and fixture. He will be missed by the people he loved; the courthouse crowd.”
Circuit Court Judge Bill McKinnon said Dunlap set a service standard for all court staff.
“Mr. Dunlap was a faithful, long-serving, committed, and always cheerful member of our Court family who set the standard for bailiffs,” McKinnon said. “We will all miss him terribly.”
York County operates two criminal courtrooms. Dunlap, as chief bailiff, assigned other bailiffs to secure courtrooms, judges and court officials.
The bailiffs at the courts work for David Hamilton, York County Clerk of Court. Dunlap was on his way to the courthouse for work when the crash happened, Hamilton said.
Hamilton worked with Dunlap for 23 years. For the past decade. Dunlap was the first to work and often the last to leave, Hamilton said.
“Mr, Dunlap was the epitome of a kind-hearted, dependable, servant of the public,” Hamilton said. “I could not have asked for a better person to work with. He was a true gentleman. A gentle giant.”
Funeral services remain pending.