‘Stay strong, be kind’: Charleston bids farewell to Police Chief Luther Reynolds

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 8:23 AM EDT|Updated: May. 30, 2023 at 2:11 PM EDT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston community paid its final farewell to its police chief at a Celebration of Life service Tuesday in Mount Pleasant.

A Celebration of Life Service for Police Chief Luther Reynolds began shortly after 11 a.m. at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant following a police motorcade that escorted him from the McAlister Smith Funeral Home in West Ashley through downtown Charleston to the church.

Reynolds died on May 22 from cancer at age 56. He served as the city’s police chief for five years.

Seacoast Church Lead Pastor Josh Surratt told the audience they would “laugh a little bit” and “cry a little bit” as well as grieve.

Older brother Mark Reynolds spoke at the service, saying he had been asked to represent the family.

Mark Reynolds, the older brother of Luther Reynolds, paid tribute to him at Tuesday's Celebration of Life service.

“And I’m proud to do so because family for Luther was an integral part of his life in all aspects. How much family influenced him throughout his time on Earth with us cannot even be measured,” he said.

He recalled Luther’s first job as an intern with the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland.

“After that, it was off to the races. He had found his passion, he had found his calling, he had found his profession, and did that man love what he did. He loved being a police officer. Every day was a good day for him,” Mark said.

He thanked the community, the city and the police department for their support. He also talked about passing a sign at a school that he said felt like a message from his brother.

“They’re getting ready for the end of the year and have a big banner out front. It says, ‘Finish strong and stay kind.’ So the first part of that, finish strong, that’s Luther. He started strong and my goodness, he finished strong,” he said. “Finish strong, stay kind, and especially to the officers out there, be safe.”

“Time is chasing after all of us and to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice that gift,” he said. “Luther did not sacrifice his gift. He is still giving and he will continue to give.”

Reynolds’ son, Luke, read the 23rd Psalm.

Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds' son, Luke, reads the 23rd Psalm at his father's funeral Tuesday.

An emotional Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg told the audience his best day as mayor was the day he hired Luther Reynolds to be the city’s police chief.

“He defined a leader as simply someone who left things better than they found them. Now, I had a little adjunct to that, a little addition. That’s also someone who left things better but inspired other people to do so,” Tecklenburg said. “And I want to tell you here today that Luther Reynolds inspired me.”

Charleston's mayor told the audience his best day of his eight years was the day he hired Luther Reynolds to be police chief.

Tecklenburg quoted the Book of Matthew in which Jesus Christ was asked to name the greatest of God’s commandments.

“And he replied, ‘Love your Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your mind, all your soul. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. Luther Reynolds felt that truth in his bones,” he said.

Messages of support for the police department and Reynolds family have been pouring in from across the Lowcountry over the last week and the love and respect for the chief made abundantly clear.

“Chief Reynolds was one of the most courageous persons I ever knew,” Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano says. “He was a very positive person, he was an extraordinary leader and incredible mentor.”

Graziano says the chief was always incredibly involved with the community. A man who could work well with any agency, any person and would get the job done well. Reynolds was named chief of police back in 2018 and announced in late 2021 that he had been diagnosed with cancer.

After an aggressive treatment that included surgery to amputate one of his legs and chemotherapy, he returned to the job in February 2022.

Reynolds died at an area hospice facility with his wife, Caroline, and his two children, Luke and Grace, by his side on May 22nd.

Hundreds of people including city officials, police officers, friends and colleagues gathered inside the McAlister-Smith funeral home on Sunday to pay respect to the life of Reynolds.

People Sheriff Graziano says he deeply cared for.

“Always putting others needs in front of his own, despite his health challenges even until the last day,” Graziano says. “He was always concerned about everyone else and what this experience I’m going through. How can I help others? And that’s who he was, a true servant leader.”

Reynolds’s celebration of life is set for 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant with a procession from the funeral home beginning at 10 a.m.