Well-respected throughout the law enforcement community, former Carroll County Sheriff R.D. “Dick” Carrico left a long-lasting impression on the department and surrounding agencies. More importantly, Carrico, who passed away Nov. 6 at the age of 71, leaves behind a legacy of an even better person who always strived to help those in need.
The Sheriff of Carroll County from 1988-1995, Carrico is credited with starting the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program in the Carroll County Public School system. During a law enforcement career that spanned nearly 35 years, Carrico also worked with the Virginia State Police before joining the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office as Chief Deputy in 1985. Prior to that, he took the lead in getting the Virginia State Police involved with the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention and the infamous Stompin’ 76 concert.
“He was a very good Sheriff. He was a good, decent man,” said current Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner, who served on the department under Carrico during his eight-year tenure as Sheriff. “He was very-well respected throughout the Sheriff community. I’ve been to Sheriff Conferences recently and they still mention his name. (Senator) George Allen mentioned his name at the last Sheriff’s Conference. It was something Dick felt very passionate about.”
Carrico’s influence is still felt locally today as both Gardner and Galax Police Chief Rick Clark both worked under Carrico as investigators. Additionally, former Hillsville Police Chief Steve Williams also worked as an investigator for Carrico at that time.
“He was a very professional person. He was a very stern, but fair kind of person,” Gardner said. “He was one of those folks that if you needed a break, he would do that. A lot of times he would talk to parents and that was a lot more effective. I know if they took me home it would have been a lot more effective than going to court because it would not have been pretty.”
Clark, who served as Chief Investigator under Carrico, said the former Sheriff always pushed his employees to do aim high.
“He always pushed us to do our best and he didn’t tolerate excuses. I thought he was a very technically-astute person,” Clark said. “Under his leadership we automated dispatch to jail and records management. And we went online at the same time as the Bristol City Police Department. Not many people in this region were automated at that point and he was always willing to try new things if he thought it was for good of the department.”
And Carrico never met a stranger, Clark said.
“If it had been the President of the United States or the poorest man in America, he would have struck up a conversation and made friends,” Clark said.
Law enforcement was always in Carrico’s blood, said Deana Case, one of Carrico’s two daughters. So much so that he went to work as a dispatcher for the Virginia State Police at the age of 18 in 1960 because he wasn’t old enough to apply for state police school at the time. Once he turned the required age of 21, Carrico applied for state trooper school, thus beginning his career as an officer.
“It was his life,” Case said. “His mom said from the time he was a little boy that is what he wanted to do.”
Carrico’s experience and expertise in law enforcement served as a big influence on Case’s husband, Robin, a police officer for the Galax Police Department for 17 years. Robin said he would call Carrico often for helpful advice. When Robin became Sergeant, he said he tried to work with the public and his men the same way Carrico did.
“He was always champing at the bit because he just loved to help anybody,” Robin Case said. “Just to give you an idea of the man he was, you couldn’t have a conversation at his house because he was always on the phone. They didn’t call the Sheriff’s Department, they called him at home and he loved it. He taught me a lot and the main thing was just how to deal with people and how to treat people.”
Case said Carrico told him to either give somebody a ticket or a talking to, but never both. He would often give people breaks instead of tickets if he thought it was warranted.
“I talked to a lot of people who said he gave them their first ticket, but none of them talked bad about him. I’ve heard nothing but utmost praise for the man,” Case said. “He was like an extension of the family, like a father figure to these people - just a very rare and special person.”
Carrico’s daughter Deana said her father’s active lifestyle slowed down considerably in recent years. He had a cancerous brain tumor six or seven years ago but recovered after radiation. He had four massive strokes within the past three years and many other smaller strokes.
“The ability to eat, talk and shake a man’s hand were his three favorite things and he lost that ability in the last three years. It killed him, but he would still grab people with his left hand and would get enough out that he could say. He spent the last days of his life kissing and hugging people and telling them he loved them because he knew he was going home,” Deanna said. “It slowed him down, but he still fought every day to go to his grandkids’ ballgames and special events. He might not have felt good, but he went even it meant he would be in bed for the next three days.”
Deana said many never knew how much Carrico cared for and did for those less fortunate. If he knew of somebody in need, he would send money or help them in whatever way he could.
“He didn’t want people knowing that kind of stuff but I found a few years ago how much my daddy helped people. He would pay for somebody’s heating bill or groceries or put something in their car…anything he could do, but he never told people but my mom,” she said.
Carrico was a devoted member of Woodlawn United Methodist Church for the past 43 years. He enjoyed cooking breakfast for Sunrise Service with his buddies and also serving as a building coordinator for the Holston Methodist Church after his retirement. During that span, he helped build the Hispanic Church near Independence and helped build and remodel other churches throughout the region.
“And the biggest thing was he loved Jesus with all his heart. When he went the other day he saw Heaven and we got to see it through his eyes,” Case said. “I want his legacy to be that no matter what he went through he always knew it would be better on the other side. He spent a large portion of his life trying to make sure others knew that.”