Luther Reynolds wasn’t your typical police chief. He wasn’t your typical man, either. He was an extraordinary, self-actualized, engaged leader of the Charleston Police Department whose presence is already missed.

The chief’s untimely, tragic death from a fierce 20-month battle with cancer is rocking many in power in Charleston — and rightly so. They knew his compassion, grace, firmness and dedication to law enforcement and keeping our community safe.  

So in an America roiled by social and political turmoil, we wish more people here and around the country could have known the way he calmly handled challenges and opportunities thrown his way.

Just about anytime you encountered Reynolds, you’d get the “treatment” — a penetrating, full throttle focus of his attention on you. Despite his title and power, his warm, purposeful gaze magnetically pulled the two of you together, opening communication on anything from the weather to an important community issue.

One friend described the tidal pull of Reynolds’ friendly engagement like this: “I thought it was a true sign of grace,” she said. “Luther taught me it is better to lead by lifting others up than to take all of the glory yourself. He was a truly kind, compassionate man devoted to his family, his church and to his struggle with cancer which he ultimately lost. But man, did he fight.”

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg portrayed Reynolds as “one of the finest human beings that many of us will ever know. Luther Reynolds was a modern man of ancient virtues: faith, honor, courage, duty. But most of all, and at his very core, Luther was a man of love. He loved his family, his friends, his life. He loved this city and the brave men and women who keep it safe.”

The tributes pour in. Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano said her heart was broken: “We should all be so thankful that we grew to know this man who served the Charleston community with dignity, grace and compassion. I will miss my friend and confidant.”  Charleston County Councilman Kylon Middleton described Reynolds’ phenomenal, faith-forward spirit and whose death had “broken my soul.”  North Charleston Police Chief Greg Gomes also highlighted the grace that poured out of Reynolds:  “We are all better officers and people watching Chief Reynolds lead with compassion, grace and passion.”

In an era when public service often gets a bad rap, we’re blessed to have leaders like Luther Reynolds to guide us towards better interpersonal outcomes and better communities. Leaders across the Lowcountry should remember and emulate Reynolds’ purpose-driven leadership. Rest in peace, Luther Thomas Reynolds, 1966-2023.

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