Eighty-one years after making the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow citizens in Mulberry and Polk County, Constable Myrle A. Whidden will be added to the Polk County Peace Officers' Memorial in Lakeland. He will be honored at this year's Annual Polk County Peace Officers' Memorial service on Thursday, May 4, 2017. The annual service honors all law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty in Polk County.
Constable Whidden will be added to the memorial after historical research determined that he was shot and killed in the line of duty on April 11, 1936.
"We had heard stories, off and on, about a police officer who had been shot and killed in the line of duty in the Mulberry area in the early part of the 20th century and was not recognized on the Polk County Memorial. We knew that it could not have been a deputy sheriff - we had reliable records and press accounts from the time. And the Mulberry Police Department had no record of any of their officers being killed. One of our members finally found an account of a Constable - which at the time was an elected police officer - who had been murdered in the Lakeland Ledger archives." - Grady Judd, Sheriff
News accounts at the time revealed: On Thursday, April 9, 1936, Constable Whidden, unarmed, responded to the Thornton residence in Mulberry, FL to resolve a dispute between a drunken Mose D. Herrin and his estranged wife. Once on scene, Constable Whidden attempted to stop the attack on Mrs. Herrin in a bathroom. During the altercation, Whidden was shot once in his left arm and then again in his chest by .32 Smith and Wesson revolver. Even though he was unarmed and severely injured after being shot twice, Whidden overpowered Herrin, subdued him with his own weapon, and transported him to the Mulberry police chief. Two days later, on his 42nd birthday, Constable Whidden succumbed to his injuries. Herrin was later found guilty of first-degree murder.
Constable Myrle A. Whidden was only 42-years-old when he died. Whidden was a well decorated law enforcement officer and had an accomplished life. Whidden was the commander of the Mulberry American Legion, a Peace Officer, and worked at the International Agriculture Corporation (known now as Mosaic) for 17 years. He served in WWI between June 1918 and May 1919 and was awarded the Croix de Guerre on January 30, 1919 for valorous service during WWI to French and Allied Soldiers. He was a member of the Polk County Voiture of the Fourth and Eight. He was elected and sworn in as a Constable for District 13 (Polk County) on December 30, 1932, and previously worked under Sheriff John Logan for eight years.
"We are so happy to be able to finally recognize and honor Constable Whidden for his service and dedication. He is a true hero who, with injuries that would be fatal, was able to subdue the man who shot him and bring him to justice." Grady Judd, Sheriff
Family members of fallen officers, representatives from various Polk County Law Enforcement and Corrections agencies, public service organizations, and federal, state, county and local government agencies will participate in honoring Whidden and 32 other Law Enforcement and Corrections officers who made the "supreme sacrifice and died in the line of duty" at the annual memorial service.