Constable Franklin Dix, the only Gates law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty, will receive a permanent road sign by the Badge of Honor Association at 11 a.m. on May 7 at the site where his injury occurred on Wegman Road in Gates.
His name will be enshrined in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., at a candlelight vigil during National Police Week.
Dix, 27, was on duty at the Gates town board meeting on Nov. 14, 1932, when his service firearm fell from his pocket and discharged. He sustained a bullet wound to his abdomen and was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital, where he died the next day.
“The recognition of Constable Dix is long overdue,” said Chief James VanBrederode, of Gates Police Department. “From the founding of our town in 1813 until the mid-1940s, town meetings were held in private homes. Constable Dix was on duty at the meeting being held in the home of Town Clerk Mary Harrington on Wegman Road when the accidental shooting took place.
“Bill Gillette, a retired Gates police officer who now serves as our Gates town historian, researched the 1932 minutes, which reported that the constable was required to be in attendance at the meetings, especially because of the amount of cash held by the town clerk that she received from residents who came to her home to pay their taxes. The historical record about Constable Dix’s service and the fatal injury he sustained while on duty clearly documents his service and the details of his death. To this day, he remains the only Gates law enforcement officer to have died while in the line of duty.”
Gillette said Badge of Honor will install a road sign at the site of Harrington’s home on Wegman Road just north of the intersection at Buffalo Road. Parking will be available at Gates Presbyterian Church, 1049 Wegman Road, Rochester. The ceremony will be outdoors; a tent will be provided in the event of inclement weather.
Founded in 2007 by Rochester Police Sgt. Justin Collins to raise money for the families of police officers killed in the line of duty in western and central New York, Badge of Honor has placed about 100 signs honoring law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the group’s territory from Buffalo to Syracuse.
After the ceremony, Investigator Joshua Bowman, of Gates PD, will lead a group of police officers from throughout the region on the Police Unity Tour, a bicycle trip from Gates to Washington, D.C.
“This year, I am riding in honor Gates Constable Franklin G. Dix,” Bowman said. “My participation in the Police Unity Tour helps sponsor the law enforcement memorial in Washington, D.C., and its program such as the Officer of the Month Award, recently fallen alert notifications and other special projects.”
Dix’s name will be enshrined in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at 8 p.m. on May 13 at the National Mall between Fourth and Seventh streets in Washington, D.C. No tickets are required. Call (202) 737-3400 for information.
Gillette compiled research material on Dix from a number of sources, including Democrat and Chronicle news reports of the accidental shooting; a review of town board minutes and other records in the town archives; Dix’s death certificate, which documents the circumstances of his death; and a personal interview with Dix’s daughter, Jean Alice Dix Webster, who lives in Spencerport. Webster, who was 3 when Dix died, provided family photographs and additional information about her father.
Dix was born on Aug. 17, 1905, as the son of Clinton E. Dix (1875–1959) and Barbara Gray Dix (1884–1935). The Dix homestead was located on the north side Buffalo Road just west of the intersection of Buffalo and Howard roads, at the site of the present-day Tim Hortons.
He became a town constable in 1929 at a starting salary of $228.95 per year, and served until his death in 1932. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife, Vera Westfall Dix (1903–1990); his children, Jean Alice and Robert Cecil; his sisters, Mrs. Franklin Hinchey, of Gates, and Mrs. Elwood Decker, of East Bloomfield; and his grandmother, Isabell Gray, of Rochester.
Dix was a member of Gates Chili Fire Department. Funeral services were held at Gates Presbyterian Church and in the family homestead, officiated by the Rev. Andrew Rauth. He was buried in Grove Place Cemetery in Chili, with arrangements made by Walker Brothers Funeral Home in Spencerport.
“Dix was attending the Gates town board meeting at Wegman and Buffalo roads Monday night when he stooped over and his .32-caliber automatic pistol fell to the floor and went off,” the Democrat and Chronicle reported on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 1932. “The bullet is said to have entered the lower part of his back, passed through his body and lodged just behind the skin of his abdomen, from where it was removed by cutting open the skin yesterday morning. Although Dix’s condition was regarded as good when brought to the hospital, he is said to have taken a sudden turn for the worse late yesterday afternoon.”
After his death, the town board acted to appoint a successor.
“The matter of protection to the collector by a constable was discussed,” Harrington recorded in the minutes of the town board meeting on Dec. 7, 1932. “Mr. Jackling moved, Mr. Stiles seconded, that in the event George Weitzel is not appointed to that duty by the sheriff’s office, he be appointed by the town board to share the duty equally with Mr. Daggar. Carried.”