Former police chief Thornhill dies

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2004

VIDALIA &045;&045; Flags at the Concordia Parish Courthouse flew at half-staff Wednesday and will again today to honor city marshal and retired Vidalia Police Chief Delane Thornhill.

&uot;I think he made a tremendous contribution to this community,&uot; said Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell, who knew Thornhill for more than 30 years. &uot;I think it (flying the flags at half-staff) was something he deserved.&uot;

Thornhill, 74, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. Thornhill was born in Summit, Miss., and moved to Vidalia in 1949 after graduating from Hinds County Junior College Barber School. He worked as a barber until he began working with the Vidalia Police Department.

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&uot;He knew everybody, always had a smile and always had time for everybody,&uot; Maxwell said. &uot;He’s going to be deeply missed … in the law enforcement community as well as the community as a whole.&uot;

Vidalia Police Chief Billy Hammers described Thornhill as an &uot;extra good person&uot; and said Thornhill enjoyed his life.

It was a life filled with accomplishments. Thornhill, an Army veteran, was a police officer in Vidalia three years before he served as elected chief of police for 16 years. In 1992, he became city marshal.

&uot;He was strict, but he was good to work for,&uot; said Bartell Schneider, assistant chief of police in Vidalia, who worked under Thornhill all of his 16 years as chief. &uot;He was a good person to be around.&uot;

While in charge of the VPD, Thornhill started the training of a full-time identifications and photography expert, installed and upgraded law enforcement computers and encouraged advanced training of the staff.

He made VPD &uot;one of the professional police departments in the state of Louisiana,&uot; Maxwell said.

Thornhill was elected president of the North Louisiana Chapter of the Chiefs of Police in 1984, served as director of the Red River Delta Law Enforcement Planning Council and served as a member of the Peace Officers’ Association on the municipal, state and national levels and of the Louisiana Marshals Association.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. today at First Baptist Church in Vidalia, with burial at Natchez City Cemetery.