Editor’s Note — Throughout the month of July, this series will take a look at the stories behind the names that are memorialized on several of Scott County’s bridges. July is the month in which America celebrates her independence and freedom, and many of those who have had bridges named after them in Scott County have served their community and their nation faithfully in either the armed forces or law enforcement. The series began with the Col. Joe Cecil bridge over New River and continued with the Cpl. Rusty Lee Washam Memorial Bridge over Buffalo Creek and, most recently, the Sheriff Mike Cross Memorial Bridge in Oneida.
If you were asked to name the most widely respected Scott County law enforcement officer of the modern era, there’s a strong chance that you would name Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Brian Boshears.
A 25-year veteran of the highway patrol, Boshears spent almost all of his career assigned to his native Scott County, where he managed to strike an almost impossible balance between being a state trooper who was commended and promoted for doing his job well, and one who was not just respected but adored by the community he served.
By the very nature of a highway patrolman’s responsibilities, those two things sometimes seem almost mutually exclusive. There are few things that strike fear in a motorist’s heart like seeing blue lights in the rearview mirror and realizing that they’re positioned atop a tan-and-black THP cruiser. Having a little bit of a lead foot might get you pulled, but deep down inside you know there’s at least a decent chance that you’re going to get off with a warning if the officer who clocked you was a county cop or city police. If it’s a highway patrolman, those chances go down dramatically.
Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers are, by the very nature of the department, polite and professional. There may not be another state agency in America whose law enforcement officers conduct themselves as properly as do those who are assigned by the THP. But, somehow, Boshears could issue you a citation and walk away from your vehicle with you feeling like you’d just had a conversation with a good friend.
Sgt. Boshears died in 2013 from complications of pneumonia. He was only 50. After his passing, the Baker Highway bridge over Paint Rock Creek and the Tennessee Railroad in Huntsville was named in his memory.
Boshears’ funeral at Bethlehem Baptist Church was one of the largest gatherings the church has ever hosted — scores of people, both inside and outside of law enforcement, stopped by to pay their respects to the family, a testament to just how well-respected Boshears was both in his profession and within the community he called home.
Just about everyone in Scott County had a Brian Boshears story. As for myself, I had been stopped only once by Sgt. Boshears. I was driving on dead tags, and he caught me red-handed.
My tags weren’t just dead by a few days or weeks. They had been dead for months. They were on a vehicle I rarely drove, and I hadn’t bothered to renew them. Of course, the one day I got the vehicle out for a spin, I ran into a THP trooper. Or, rather, he ran into me.
I was southbound on U.S. 27, heading out of Oneida, when I saw the THP cruiser in my rearview mirror. I groaned inwardly because I knew I was busted. Troopers have eyes like hawks, and a dead tag isn’t going to escape their attention. I couldn’t speed up to stay sufficiently far enough ahead of him that he wouldn’t see my license plate, because then I’d be speeding.
As the THP cruiser closed in behind me, I flipped on my signal and turned onto a side street, hoping he’d keep going. Of course he didn’t. He turned in behind me and flipped on his blue lights.
I stopped in the middle of the lightly-trafficked street, because there was nowhere to pull off the road. The cruiser stopped behind me, and Sgt. Boshears got out. “Do you realize how long your tags have been expired?” he asked as he walked up to my window. I laughed and said I did. “You need to go down to the clerk’s office and renew them,” he said. And then he leaned up against the side of my car and started talking — not about dead tags, but about high school sports. His son, Tanner — now a deputy at the Scott County Sheriff’s Office as he follows in his father’s footsteps — played football and basketball at Oneida High School at the time, and Boshears was a fixture at the games. For the next 15 minutes, we talked, our vehicles sitting in the middle of the deserted roadway. Then he was on his way, with a final word of warning about my dead tags.
Sgt. Boshears could’ve issued me a citation — maybe should have, actually. But if he had, the end result would’ve been the same. He would have been cheerful about it, carried on a conversation, and I would have driven off respecting him nonetheless. That was the effect he had on people.
When he died in May 2013, after his two-week battle with pneumonia, Sgt. Boshears was expecting his first grandchild; his daughter, Mackenzie, was due in September. He was also survived by a younger daughter, Kennedy, who graduated high school this past spring.
Boshears, who was promoted to sergeant in 2011, also served many other roles with THP, including the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), the chaplain’s program and others. Among his normal duties, he also escorted the governor on occasion and sometimes provided security at University of Tennessee sporting events.
Sgt. Boshears died at 12:44 p.m. on a Monday, at Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge. Before a team of law enforcement officers, some two dozen strong, escorted his body back to Scott County that evening, word of his death had reached back home — and the community mourned his passing.
“He was a great state trooper,” THP Capt. David McGill said at the time. “He loved serving the people of his state and the people who passed through his state.
“He is an outstanding individual, a professional, good morals, a great father and a good friend.”
Campbell County Sheriff Robbie K. Goins added, “We can’t tell you in words how hurt we are for the loss of such a good man. Brian has been a brother and friend to many. More importantly, he was a dedicated husband, father and soon to have been grandfather.”