Robin Morse wanted to be a cop for as long as he could remember. He got a job with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office on December 13, 1974. Before he was on the force a year, it almost killed him.

Now, 44 years later, Morse is the rare man who gets to know how much he is loved and respected by his peers while still alive to hear it.

At the Laurens County Higher Education Center on Tuesday, family, friends, colleagues and dignitaries held a Recognition Program for Morse, retired from law enforcement but still active as Deputy Coroner.

Wife Barbara talked about their life together. Brother Jim, a pastor, said he reckoned Robin and he had wound up ministering to people at both ends of life’s ladder. Daughter Merial Roberts and granddaughter Braelyn sang the national anthem beautifully. Three county sheriffs were there, as well as enough former colleagues to conduct a search or put out a fire. Morse learned how to do the latter while public safety director in Clinton.

Clinton Fire’s Scott Shiflet presented him with a fancy helmet. Former sheriff Ricky Chastain said, “Any officer could look to Robin as a model, someone to model a career after,” and presented Morse with a fine flashlight engraved with his name on it. Congressman Jeff Duncan presented an American flag that flew over the Capitol in Washington.

In 1975, Morse was off duty when he arrived at a scene where a man he knew was holed up in a house, suffering from drunken desperation and delirium tremens. Morse volunteered to go in and talk to him. The man had a shotgun, which he fired and hit Morse in the abdomen. It nearly killed him and required months of hospitalization and recovery.

Morse forgave the man, visited him on occasion, and if the tragedy hadn’t happened, might never have met Barbara. Most would have found something else to do at so young an age, but Morse wouldn’t hear of it. Years later, he got his Purple Heart for injury in the line of duty.

He worked for the Sheriff’s Department for two decades, spent a year and a half with the Highway Patrol, was Laurens Police Chief for 17-1/2 years and headed Clinton Public Safety for six years. He taught at the Criminal Justice Academy and Piedmont Tech.

The program was longer than what was listed in the program. People came up to the front of the room as if there were an altar there.

Former Laurens mayor John Stankus, who was also an officer under Morse, said, “When you worked for Robin, you really worked with him. … Laurens County is a much better place because he didn’t walk away.”

Another former sheriff, Jim Moore, said Morse was “decades ahead in his thinking. He was so far ahead of the average person, me included. Law enforcement and emergency services here are so much better because of him.”

When Morse finally spoke, he said his career had been proof that “if you persevere, you can come out on top. You have to keep chipping away. This means more to me than anyone will ever know.”

He said he had a simple prayer: “Please help my brain to forget what my eyes have seen.

“There were a lot of sad days,” Morse said, “but the job gave me a lot of laughs. I look on that as a blessing.”