Retired Ardmore Police Chief William “Doc” Oliver, known in Limestone County as a much-loved “character” and longtime law-enforcement official, died Monday. He was 75.
Survivors include his wife, Doris Hargrove Oliver.
Oliver served as Ardmore’s police chief for 32 years before retiring in 2010.
He spent more than 46 years in law enforcement, serving as a jailer, dispatcher, police officer and two-term elected sheriff in Giles County before accepting the chief’s job in Ardmore, a city straddling two states.
He was first elected sheriff at 31 years old. The youngest sheriff ever elected in Giles County.
Oliver’s chosen profession came naturally. He was born to a father who served as a constable for 25 years. His older brother was a state trooper and his younger brother a police officer.
Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said Oliver’s greatness was his knowledge of people and his care for their well-being.
“I met Doc about 30 years ago,” Johnson said Monday after leaving the hospital where Oliver had died.
Oliver was a sheriff in Giles County, Tenn., before becoming chief at Ardmore, Johnson said.
“He was a very unique individual, to say the least,” Johnson said. “He knew everybody, and if you asked Doc about trying to find someone, he would not only tell you who somebody was but who their family was and where they lived.”
In the days before computers, this resource was invaluable.
“He could help you in any way — day or night,” Johnson said. “He was a good man, a very caring man. That’s what made him a great man and a great police chief. He really cared about people. He had a heart of gold, and I hate to see him go. He influenced quite a few people in our department who worked there before coming here.”
Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said he loved Oliver.
“He was my buddy,” the sheriff said. “He was a legend.”
Blakely said Oliver “did an awesome job, not just at keeping the peace but as an ambassador for Ardmore.”
Like Chief Johnson, Sheriff Blakely said Oliver had a gift for understanding people.
“He understood human nature,” the sheriff said. “He was someone who when dealing with people — whether it was someone he had to arrest or neighbors in a conflict — he had a love of people and a way with people that was hard not to like and respect.”
Oliver would always be missed, Blakely said.
“Not just as a chief but as a figure in our county and in that community,” he said. “He was a humble man, and I just loved him. They broke the mold when they made him.”
Law-enforcement officers were not the only types who knew Oliver.
Although he had a number of accomplishments, awards, commendations, plaques and appreciations, it is said he beamed with pride when speaking of being named to the Giles County Little League Hall of Fame as only its second character inductee. He coached little league for 25 years and said during an interview with Paul Cain in 2009 that he loved his players beyond description.
Holly Hollman, former News Courier and Decatur Daily reporter, now city of Athens grant coordinator and public information specialist, has fond memories of Oliver.
She said Oliver was dubbed “Doc” for saving someone’s life in high school.
His decades in law enforcement meant he had decades of stories to tell, she said.
“I remember there was a murder up in Ardmore where a man beat an older man to death for his jar of change,” she said. “I remember that (Limestone County Sheriff Mike) Blakely called me while I was in church on Sunday night to tell me, and I went up there. I remember it was freezing and Doc finally sent me to the police station because he was worried about me. It was 1 a.m. and I was waiting for Doc and the sheriff to get back to tell me the details. But, when Doc got there, Doc started telling me about all the times that Blakely pulled tricks on him — like Blakely in a wig in a car at the Police Department and all kinds of crazy stories. Here I was just wanting the who, what, where, why and when and he was telling me all of these stories.”
Hollman also recalled how Oliver made juveniles in trouble get up early on Saturday and help make stew. She also recalled his role as “minister” to prisoners.
“He would talk to them (about the Lord and getting baptized) and then call his preacher friends and have them baptized,” Hollman said. “He was definitely one of the Limestone County characters you couldn’t help but love.”