At a time when few of Durham’s Black residents feel confident in law enforcement will treat them with respect, Sergeant David Whitfield Buie Jr. was the exception to the rule. Colleagues remember the deputy as a consummate professional, who gained the trust of the community while serving in the Sheriff’s Office courtroom division.

Buie, who was a 30-year veteran of the North Carolina Central Police Department hired by Durham County Sheriff’s Office in 2015, died last week from rare blood cancer. He was two weeks shy of his 56 birthday. 

“I knew Deputy Buie for 15 years and his passing is a loss for us in law enforcement,” Durham Sheriff Clarence Birkhead, who attended the graveside service, told the INDY. “His role here meant he interacted with the public on a regular basis and he always represented the DCSO with honor. He will be missed.”

Well over 200 people gathered at the Beechwood Cemetery late Saturday morning to honor Buie at a graveside service. In addition to officers from the N.C. Central, officers from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, the Durham Police Department, along with Wake and Durham Tech were in attendance to pay homage to their fellow officer and friend.

Fewer than one in five Black Americans feel very confident that the police in their area would treat them with courtesy and respect, according to an August 5 Gallup poll.

But Buie was trusted by members of the community where he lived and worked his entire life because he always treated them with courtesy.  Buie would often say, “You have to treat people with respect,” according to family. 

Buie was a calm, reassuring presence on the NCCU campus. Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye, issued a statement that described Buie as a “treasured law enforcement veteran” who was awarded a medal of valor from the campus police department before he retired in 2013.

Buie’s childhood friend, Kenneth M. Yelverton, who serves as the presiding bishop at The Temple of Refuge church in Charlotte, remembered his old running buddy as a mischievous, fun-loving guy who drove a red Datsun with dark-tinted windows. The music blasting from the car was so loud one could hear it from nearly a block away; the rear license tag shaking from the vibrations.

“I used to tell him, ‘who would have thought that you would’ve went into law enforcement?’” Yelverton said. “Especially on Central’s campus where we were often chased off campus, by the campus police.”

Family members said Buie often greeted them with a big bear embrace. He would tease them too, with a brand of “silly, wink-wink humor.”

Buie was the youngest of seven children. He grew up in a squat, red-brick home on South Roxboro Street within walking distance of the school where he worked for nearly three decades. Like Buie, his late father, David W. Buie, Sr. was gentle with a nurturing quality. The senior Buie planted flowers beds in the front and backyards, while his son’s devout evangelist mother Hattie Mae McCright-Buie served as the family disciplinarian.

Growing up, Buie was a “funny and kind little boy,” his obituary described, but his desire to protect and serve was apparent early on. At C.C. Spaulding Elementary he was a member of the safety patrol. He also was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and a cheerful member of the children’s choir at church before he graduated from Hillside High in 1981.

After Buie’s passing, his older sister Donna “Koku” Buie shared a picture of the two of them together when they were elementary students: her, smiling, pig-tailed, and wearing a Sunday dress and David a handsome little brown boy in a smart white fedora, matching shorts, and a button-down shirt.

Buie was always making people laugh, Donna Buie said. Although she was older, ” could not be the boss of David Jr.,” she wrote in a post on social media. 

“First he became cooler!” she wrote. “He could dance and roller skate at the same time. He could skate backwards! He could pop lock and moon walk!”

Buie’s career in law enforcement began while he was attending Durham Tech, where he started working with the N.C. Central Police Department. He graduated from the Durham County Sheriff’s Police Academy and continued at NCCU, where he was a prominent presence until his retirement

While at NCCU, Buie was the official driver for two university chancellors and received the N.C. Governor’s Award.

“What he loved most was mentoring officers and serving his community with respect, humility, love and laughter,” his obituary read. 

When not in uniform family said Buie enjoyed concerts, grilling, eating out, and traveling. He relished sharing inside jokes over food with the family of law officers who visited his home.

“Among his favorite getaways [was] the annual MEN’S TRIP,” with his closest friends for male bonding, according to his obituary.

Koku Buie said her brother was diagnosed with Erdheim-Chester disease last September. He was working with the sheriff’s office and “going in and out of the hospital with breathing issues, for about six or eight months” before the diagnosis, she told the INDY.

His reaction to the diagnosis was calm.

“Kind of, ‘what can you do?’” she said. “He told a few of us ‘I might outlive you.’ What helped, Koku added was Buie’s daughter who kept reminding family members that her father was determined to live and die on his own terms.

When the pandemic hit and the courthouse shut down, Buie moved to department’s the patrol division. But there were already enough patrol units on the streets, and eventually Buie came home, his sister said.

Before the service closed Buie’s family and friends sang a Commodores’ tune, “Zoom.” A niece and nephew on acoustic guitar and conga accompanied a niece who sang another Commodores’ song, “Jesus Is Love.” There was a 21-gun salute by a somber ensemble of sheriff’s deputies.

Yelverton reminded the mourners that Sgt. Buie deposited many seeds, and not only with his son and daughter.

“His life was not in vain, but as an investment into each and every one of us,” Yelverton said.

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