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Steven FlahertySeventy five years have gone by since 33-year-old state trooper William Raymond Thompson was gunned down during a bank robbery at the Fluvanna County Bank in Fork Union.

But on Thursday (May 12) a gathering of about fifty people, including Virginia State Troopers, former state trooped and now Fluvanna County Sheriff Ryant Washington and Fork Union Military Academy cadets attended the ceremony honoring Thompson.

Also attending were the son and daughter of Iva L. White, an assistant teller at the bank at the time of the robbery, and Thomas B. Thompson, the nephew of the slain trooper.

The ceremony, on the lawn of the Fork Union Baptist Church, was held across the street from where the robbery occurred.

One of the speakers, Jonathon S. Shouse, corporate secretary for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation said Thompson was “a man of character. I didn't know him but I know what it takes to become a trooper.” He then read the state trooper's pledge and added, “Courage is to do the right thing despite the fear of danger.”

Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said of Thompson: “His calling was to protect the commonwealth. Thompson gave his life for something he believed in.” Flaherty went on to describe life in those days for state police. Thompson was a motorcycle officer as were most back then but eventually was one of the few who would drive the first police cars.

Many now know of the heroism of Thompson and the consequences the robbers faced. John Spoon and Grant Mills served out a life sentence for their part in the robbery and the trigger man, John Daugherty, received the death penalty.

Flaherty quoted the judge who sentenced the robbers. The judge said: “You shot a brave officer in cold blood. You had the opportunity to flee out the side door but you chose not to.”

Flaherty added, “It was the sensational trial of the century for Fluvanna. The court room was packed, standing room only.”

Memorial plaques

Thomas B. Thompson, the nephew of the slain trooper, said, “I never knew my uncle, he died twelve years before I was born but I always heard how well liked he was by everyone.” Thompson thanked everyone for their remembrances and for making the event happen.

Though many who may have witnessed the actual event are now either deceased or were unable to attend the ceremony, Kenneth Tillman, who was ten at the time, reminisced about Thompson and that infamous day.

“Thompson would always meet us kids on the corner down there,” he said, pointing to a big tree in the distance. “He would tell us stories. We looked at his motorcycle. We thought we were big shots talking to a state policeman. He was very nice and we always enjoyed talking with him.”

Tillman also remembered the excitement of that day and also recalled what happened to young FUMA Cadet Lt. Frank W. Wicks Jr., killed by a stray bullet during the manhunt.

“State troopers came from all over the state to join the manhunt. It happened in a barn in Cohasset, that's where the cadet got killed. But then we didn't see anything more after that.”

Along with Thompson, a plaque was also unveiled honoring the bravery of Cadet Lt. Wicks.