Have you ever wondered where we got the term "sheriff" or how police became referred to as "cops?"
If you have, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Hall of Fame will provide some answers. But the museum not only gives a historic overview of the evolution of police work. It also provides a new appreciation for the job that dedicated police officers do every day.
Since 1980, the Hall of Fame has educated visitors on the "law enforcement story," with particular emphasis on our own South Carolina history. The museum is filled with artifacts that bring that story to life: a collection of badges and uniforms, an actual prison cellblock, a collection of contraband confiscated by the police, a restored 1950s police cruiser and more.
The museum also has a display in honor of Mervin Purvis. That name might not be familiar now, but this South Carolina native was famous in the 1930s as the FBI agent who took down gangster John Dillinger. Purvis returned to South Carolina after retiring from the FBI, and his impressive gun collection is on view at the Hall of Fame.
But it is the emphasis on the human being behind the badge and uniform that is at the heart of the museum. The exhibits demonstrate the important ways in which the modern police officer engages with the community. Nearby, a memorial to fallen officers proclaims, "blessed are the peacemakers." The memorial also includes a binder that has a page dedicated to each S.C. officer who died in the line of duty. Each page has a description of how the police officer died and their portrait. Take a moment to look through the faces in the binder and every exhibit in the Hall of Fame takes on greater meaning.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Hall of Fame is located at 5400 Broad River Road in Columbia. The Hall of Fame is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted at the door.
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