MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Coretha Gravely is the Martinsville Police Department's first African-American female police officer.
She believes Jewel Hagwood, the department's first African-American officer, helped make that possible.
"I think he opened up the door for a lot of African-Americans. It made me think, 'If he can do it, I can do it,'" Gravely said.
Hagwood worked for the department for 30 years.
After retiring, he worked part time for the Martinsville Sheriff's Office.
He passed away March 11 at the age of 84 from natural causes.
"He was a very good person. He was good in the community," Gravely said.
Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady said Hagwood was ahead of his time.
"Jewel Hagwood practiced community policing before it became a name," Cassady said. "That's why we like to call it quality policing because that's what he did for the citizens of Martinsville."
Following in his footsteps, Gravely now heads up the department's community policing efforts, including the neighborhood watch program.
Martinsville resident Virginia Wallace is a neighborhood watch captain. She appreciates Gravely's dedication to the program.
"All you have to do is call her if you have a problem. She's right here to help us out," Wallace said.
Gravely sees herself also following in Hagwood's footsteps by opening doors for future generations.
"Not only for African-Americans, but women. We can do things, too. A lot of times, we can come in and calm a situation better than the males can," Gravely said.
Cassady said Hagwood's legacy will remain an important part of the department's foundation.