Tributes poured in for Prince George’s County, Maryland, Sheriff Melvin High, who died earlier this month, from dignitaries and from High’s daughter, who described his life as one of service and sacrifice.
During High’s funeral in Upper Marlboro Tuesday, his daughter Tracy High said that law enforcement was one of her father’s greatest passions, “in addition to his love of God, family and country.”
She recalled her grandmother telling her about High’s integrity and his advice to family members.
“She said he always told the family, ‘If you get a ticket or get in trouble with the law, do not mention my name. Just pay the fine or do the time, even if I have to give you the money to pay for your lawyer.'”
Tracy High also remembered how her father made time to drive her to high school each day. “I didn’t realize at the time how special those drives were; it was just a dad being a dad.
“Now of course, I see those drives as what they were — a man who went far out of his way to drive his daughter to school, even though it was nowhere near his job,” she said. “And I am so grateful for that valuable time that we spent together learning about each other.”
Tracy High said her great sadness is not that she would not get to learn more from him, but that her son Christian won’t either.
She talked about her father’s humble beginnings in Mississippi, where his mother made his clothes out of flour sacks.
“My dad, even though he had seen so much unfairness in life, never taught me life lessons with anger in his heart,” Tracy High said. “He told me that I had a duty to serve others, to show everyone with respect and to treat people fairly.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan spoke at the funeral, telling those gathered that High “truly put his whole self into his work. It was his calling, his passion.” He added that High’s drive and dedication led other departments to seek his insight.
“He was often called upon to provide guidance and best practices to law enforcement officials all across the nation,” Hogan said.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks recalled meeting High when he was being considered for the job of the county’s police chief. She said she sat in on the interview with then County Executive Jack Johnson, and concluded, “This man is amazing!”
Alsobrooks said while High was born in Mississippi, “He was clearly one of us” and “a Prince Georgian through and through.”
Interim Sheriff Darrin Palmer recalled how he had once acted on a controversial decision and High had asked him if he’d made the right call. Palmer said he told High that he felt he did make the right decision, but it wasn’t the “politically correct decision.” High told him to “always make the right decision, and he would deal with politics.”
High died at the Washington Hospital Center Nov. 17 after falling ill. He was 78 years old.
He began his career in D.C., where he served as an officer with D.C. police. At the time, Black officers were barred from riding in cruisers, so he walked a beat.
At the time of his death, High was weeks from retiring as Prince George’s County sheriff, having served more than 50 years in law enforcement. He served as assistant chief of police in D.C.; led the police departments in Norfolk, Virginia, and Prince George’s county; and was elected sheriff of the Maryland county in 2010.