Polk Co. officer's name added to memorial 80 years after his death

- A Polk County law enforcement officer's name was just added to a memorial more than 80 years after he lost his life in the line of duty.

Constable Myrle Whidden was shot on Easter Sunday, 1936. He died two days later on his 42nd birthday.

"He was a great citizen," said Bob Moore, a friend of the family. "He fought for his country, protected the people and gave his life doing it."

His story was the centerpiece of the 30th annual Polk County Peace Officers' Memorial Service in Lakeland on Thursday.

Back in the day, Whidden got a call that Smokey Herrin, a known wife beater, was at it again.

"He had no idea what he was walking into," Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said.   "He didn't even know how bad Smokey Herrin hated him. For if he did, he wouldn't have gone without a gun."

Herrin ended up shooting Whidden first in the shoulder, then in the back. Despite his injuries, Whidden was able to arrest Herrin, who eventually was convicted of first degree murder.

After the memorial service, Whidden granddaughter talked to reporters.

"To us, he was a hero growing up," said Robin Harrell. But this is something we never expected."

Whidden will be honored in Washington, D.C. next week.

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