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I came across your Officer Down website today as I was searching to see if I could find any interviews with friends or classmates of Vivian Malone from 1963, or any of the US Marshals sent to Alabama in those terrible times at the University. My father, Noah Friend, was one of the Marshals sent by Chief US Marshal James P. McShane to protect and escort Ms. Malone. Sadly, as your site correctly notes my father was killed in the line of duty at the age of 49 after his return from Alabama. The accident which took his life occurred as follows:
The Federal Court was in session at London, KY. Dad and three other marshals began their transport of convicted prisoners to the Pineville, KY jail approximately 50 miles away. In his car were two female prisoners and as he was transporting female prisoners he was accompanied by a female deputy marshal. It was on November 13th approximately 6 P.M., a “dark, rainy evening,” “the pavement was wet” and “it was- dusk dark" as later described by some of the witnesses who saw the marshals as they motorcaded out of Pineville.
Dad was in the lead vehicle as he was the one most familiar with the roads in the area. On those dark, narrow, curving two lane roads of the time, broken road shoulders and other hazards created by overweight and/or poorly maintained coal trucks posed a significant risk to all drivers. (There were no regulations regarding vehicle inspection, safe maintenance or load limitations). As the marshals were heading east on old US 23 towards London the rain combined with the elevation continued to reduce visibility. As they came into a ‘blind curve’ a 1958 Chevy coal dump truck was stalled on the highway in the curve. The driver of the truck, it was later learned, was out of the vehicle standing on the opposite shoulder of the highway. The truck had no operating taillights and no flares were on the highway. By the time to stalled truck was visible it was impossible to avoid impacting the back of the vehicle. According to the witnesses Dad swerved his 1962 Oldsmobile hard to the right to keep the female marshal sitting in the front seat from going under the back of the truck. The brunt of the impact was on the driver’s side of the Oldsmobile. Both Dad and the prisoner seated directly behind him died at the scene. His shoes, which my mother kept sitting under the baby grand piano in our living room until her death in 2001, still had the heavy impression marks of the brake pedal on both soles. His death was due to brunt force trauma to the chest.
I was 10 years old and the youngest of my father’s three children at the time of his death. I recall a number of the other marshals that were in AL in 63’ called to express their sorrow at hearing of his death. Vivian Malone both called and wrote to my mother expressing her caring for and her sadness upon learning of his death, she had in her words, come to rely upon my father’s calm and assuring presence during those terrible and frightening times she experienced upon becoming the first black woman to attend the University of Alabama. This meant a lot to my mother as Ms. Malone’s message was obviously very heartfelt and sincere. Mother also received a touching personal note from President and Mrs. Kennedy regarding my father’s service as a US Marshal and particularly thanking him for his time in Alabama. Their letter was dated on the last day they were in the White House before leaving for the ill-fated trip to Texas.
Chief Marshal James McShane sent a representative of the US Marshal’s Service to Pikeville KY for the funeral. In order to accommodate all the travel arrangements for the hundreds of people that came to mark his passing his body laid in state from Thursday, November 14th until his funeral on Thursday, November 21st. His funeral was held at the First Presbyterian Church and his eulogy “A New Star in Heaven” was written and delivered by one of his close personal friends, US Federal Judge Mac Swinford. The funeral was broadcast on the local radio stations and speakers were set up in the Pikeville City Park across from the church for those who could not find seating.
Inspired by my father’s service I became an attorney in 1981. I started my legal career in Washington working as Assistant Counsel to Chairman Carl D. Perkins on the House Ed and Labor Committee and later returned to KY to serve as an Asst. Prosecutor in an Eastern KY county and later as as Asst. General Counsel to Kentucky’s first woman governor, Martha Layne Collins.
My father left me in the hands of wonderful mentors such as Judge Mac Swinford, Edward F. Prichard, Rep. Carl D. Perkins and most particularly Harry Caudill, author of Night Comes to the Cumberlands a book which inspired the formation of the Appalachian Regional Commission and the War on Poverty. Through these men I received encouragement, enlightenment and guidance and I’m sure my father was most approving of their kindness and care. Even now at the 50th anniversary of Dad’s untimely death I still recall Judge Swinford’ s heartfelt eulogy which in part included:
Noah Friend, first and foremost was a truthful man, an ethical man, a man respected amongst men and upon whom others could rely. For those of us fortunate to have called him our personal friend we will truly miss his presence both in the federal courts and at personal gatherings. I personally know that for Noah his family always came first, his parents, his wife Callie and his three children. Each of them, but particularly Noah’s children, now must face life without his strong, protective and loving guidance. Their future will always be marked by the kind of void left in the heart when such a strong and exceptional man is so suddenly torn from our midst …a void which will always be felt…
But, on certain clear evenings I still look up and see him shining amongst those “new stars of heaven.” And, I saw him again in the shining bright eyes of each of my three children when they were born.
For all of you who were fortunate to have been the parent, spouse, child, sibling or friend of these wonderfully unique and deeply loved officers who gave of themselves for the safety and protection of others…we were all fortunate to have had such ‘stars’ in our lives, we were all such very lucky people to have known and loved them.
Daughter of Noah R Friend
November 12, 2013