Meet Clara Elder, Raleigh’s First Female Police Officer and School Crossing Guard, at Carillon Assisted Living of Fuquay-Varina
Although it’s been many years since Clara Elder walked the beat in Raleigh, she still remembers the heartwarming aspects of serving as one of first female police officers in North Carolina’s capital city.
Her duties included walking and patrolling the streets and handling school crossing guard duties if someone else failed to show up for work. She never achieved a particular rank; when she started in the late 1940’s officers weren’t classified that way.
“I think the most interesting and enjoyable part was working school crossings,” says Elder, a new resident at Carillon Assisted Living’s Fuquay-Varina facility. “I saw some very unfortunate and needy little children at the schools I worked. It looked like they had no breakfast or anyone caring for them. Show them even a little kindness like combing their hair and you would be their best friend.”
A native of Angier, North Carolina, Elder didn’t come from a law enforcement family. The oldest of six children, her father was a lifelong farmer in Angier. Clara and her three sisters and two brothers grew up helping the farm by picking corn, cotton, tobacco and enjoying fun in fiends together for a pastime.
After marrying at a relatively young age, her husband applied to the Raleigh police department, but got turned down because he didn’t have a high school diploma. When he suggested she take the civil service exam, Clara took him up on the offer and wound up getting hired as the first female Raleigh police officer.
“It takes a certain kind of person to be a police officer,” Elder says. “You’ve got to have patience and you have to listen to what people have to say when you stop them. If you don’t have those qualities, you might as well quit. I missed it some at first, but I wouldn’t want to go back.”
Unfortunately, Elder’s marriage didn’t last, dissolving right before the youngest of her two sons started school. Elder and her sons later moved as a family to Charlotte, where she worked as a part-time crossing guard and then going on to work at Belk’s, a chain of department stores. She finally joined Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and found a home where she worked for 34 years.
It was in Charlotte, North Carolina that marked the point of a key decision in her life, to follow Jesus as her Lord and Savior. “I have had a very happy life after I got over being separated,” Elder says. “My pastor told me, ‘Clara, life is what you want to make it. You can sit around and brood all the time, or you can build a life.’ That’s when I went to work for Krispy Kreme.”
on December 15, 2016