One of Guilford County’s most revered citizens – former two-term Democratic Sheriff of Guilford County Walter “Sticky” Burch – has passed away.
Burch was born just outside of Asheville on Oct. 21, 1918.
At the age of 100, three years ago, the well-known former sheriff of Guilford County was still working out regularly and had his driver’s license.
The former Democratic sheriff held that office for two four-year terms before being defeated by former Republican Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes in 1994.
Barnes said on Friday, July 28, that it was very sad to see the passing of such a great man. He said they were political opponents for years but also remained very good friends.
“I ran against him three times and he beat me twice,” Barnes said. “I beat him the third time. After the first race, Sticky said, ‘I really wanted to give it to you because your daughter was so upset,’” Barnes remembered fondly.
Barnes’ daughter cried up a storm after her father’s loss.
Barnes said he’d spoken with other community leaders Friday morning who had very kind words to say about Burch.
“Sticky cared about the people that worked for him,” Barnes said, adding that he, Barnes, tried to follow that model as well after taking over for Burch.
Barnes said the two men shared another common trait as well: “He hated politics, but he knew it was necessary to get things done.”
Barnes said the News & Record ran an article after Barnes beat Burch that stated that Burch should have made Barnes chief deputy after winning the election. Then Burch would still be sheriff the paper stated.
In October three years ago, Barnes threw a big party at the Shrine Club for Burch’s 100th birthday. At that time, a proclamation was read on the floor of Congress honoring Burch’s birthday and his “lifelong commitment to public service.”
Burch, a father of three and a grandfather, began serving in the US Air Force about a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and, after the war, worked for many years as an officer with the Greensboro Police Department.
In 1986, Burch was first elected as Guilford County sheriff after the department had some well-publicized problems The department at that time also started using video cameras for First Appearances court, which meant inmates didn’t need to be transported as frequently between High Point and Greensboro. Burch and his staff also implemented programs that helped reduce the jail population since there was a major overcrowding problem in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Burch grew up in the Great Depression but told the Rhino Times several years ago that that didn’t make much difference to him.
“We grew up pretty poor, but I never did notice,” he said. “I always had a good meal to eat, a warm bed to sleep in and a loving family.”
He attended Greensboro High School, now Grimsley, and then attended Presbyterian College for a year.
Burch served in a wide variety of community organizations during his life and, until recently, he remained active with the Greensboro Jaycees Old Timers Club and the Greensboro Shrine Club.
He suffered a heart attack earlier this month.
Even Sticky himself wasn’t entirely positive where his nickname came from, but Burch said three years ago he believes it came from the time when he was a receiver for the Greensboro High School football team. When the ball was thrown to him it would stick to his hands – or so the legend goes.
Burch said that story doesn’t really make sense, however, because he honestly wasn’t that good at catching the ball.
I good man. I heard 40 years ago he got the name “Sticky” because he was really good with his night stick as a Greensboro cop, downtown, walking a beat.
The venerable Walter “Sticky” Burch will go down in the North Carolina annals of history as one the most beloved law enforcement officers to have served the citizens of Guilford County and this state. His memory will be cherished by many and he will be sorely missed. Those who served with him and under his leadership will always have a special place in their hearts for him. R. I. P.
Just a nitpick — Sticky couldn’t have joined the US Air Force after Pearl Harbor because the Air Force was created until 1947. He may have joined the US Army Aircorps (the predecessor of the US Air Force.)
God’s Speed my friend. The street of heaven are better served today because of our loss. You are gone but not forgotten nor will you be anytime soon. Thank you for your friendship, service and counsel.
An era of gentlemanly politics… before Skippy Alston.
Back when you knew where people stood when they were aligned with a particular party. I met Burch many times and he was always the epitome of a kind southern gentleman. Nowadays everything is so convoluted & extreme, you can only trust Libertarians & Constitutionalists to do what their platform is founded on. The rest is a never ending two ring circus.
Sticky was a combination of very kind person and highly effective performer. It was an honor to know him.
I served on the Board of Directors of Crimestoppers with Sticky where we sat side by side for years, but I saw him more often at the John Willett Bible Study. I started with John Willett in 1993 and I am not sure when Sticky first came, but he was faithful for many years, as is former Mayor, Bill Knight.
I think we considered each other to be friends and B. J. is correct, that we valued Sticky’s counsel. Democrats were a different breed then as most were gentlemen/ladies and one could have many enjoyable conversations about politics.
The Lord must have decided it was time to bring in someone He could count on. We Marines may guard the streets of Heaven, but I bet Sticky assigns the watch commanders.
You have performed your assigned duties, good and faithful servant, now rest in peace.
A true friend. I met him in 1975 when became Potentate. He never forgot his friends. He was not only a Greensboro leader but was known thru all of Shrinedom. Holding many leadership rolls. He will miss and remembered.