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Hero Down: Prince George’s County Sheriff Melvin ‘Mel’ Claudy High Dies From Blood Infection

Washington, DC – Prince George’s County Sheriff Melvin “Mel” Claudy High died on Nov. 17 after falling ill with a blood infection, according to officials.

The 78-year-old sheriff passed away at MedStar Washington Hospital Center with his wife and daughter by his side, The Washington Post reported.

He had been hospitalized for approximately three weeks prior to his death.

Sheriff High devoted 53 years of his life to his law enforcement career – the last 12 of which he served at the helm of the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office (PGCSO), The Washington Post reported.

He was in his final weeks of work at the time of his death and was looking forward to his retirement next month, according to The Washington Post.

DC Metropolitan Police (MPD) Chief Robert Contee said he was 18 years old and performing grunt work for the command staff as a police cadet when he first met Sheriff High.

He was an “icon in law enforcement,” Chief Contee told The Washington Post.

PGCSO Assistant Sheriff Darrin Palmer said he has served alongside Sheriff High for the past 12 years.

“Sheriff Melvin C. High was an exceptional human being who gave everything he had in service to others,” Assistant Sheriff Palmer told The Washington Post. “I have unending respect for him, and it has been the highlight of my professional career to be associated with him and to work for and with him.”

Sheriff High earned a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University, as well as a master’s degree from Southeastern University.

He was also a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, The Washington Post reported.

Sheriff High began his law enforcement career in 1969, when he was hired by the MPD.

“Sheriff High began his 53-year law enforcement career in Washington D.C. in 1969 in the tumultuous aftermath of civil unrest and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” his obituary read.

By the time he retired from the department in 1993, he was assistant chief of police and second in command.

Sheriff High went on to accept a position as chief of the Norfolk Police Department in Virginia, where he stayed for 10 years. He later served five years as chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department, The Washington Post reported.

He took over as sheriff of Prince George’s County in 2010.

“He was the consummate professional, a true servant leader,” Assistant Sheriff Palmer told The Washington Post. “He was in great control, even in the throes of chaos … He had the strength to not just direct, but to listen, and then make sound decisions from all that input.”

Sheriff High leaves behind his wife, Brenda, his daughter, Tracy, and his seven-year-old grandson, Christian, The Washington Post reported.

He is also survived by his son-in-low, two nieces, two nephews, two grandnephews, a grandniece, and his great-grandnephew, according to his obituary.

Sheriff High was laid to rest on Nov. 29.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Prince George’s County Sheriff Melvin “Mel” Claudy High, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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