‘We have large shoes to fill’: Late Beaufort police chief remembered

Local News

BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – A Lowcountry police chief has been laid to rest.

Chief Matt Clancy may have lost his battle with cancer, but he never lost the respect or the love of the Beaufort community.

“I like to describe him as one of those guys with a hard shell but an incredibly soft center, a gentle center, a compassionate center,” said Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling during a public memorial service Friday.

A crowd of people packed Henry Chambers Waterfront Park to honor a man who dedicated much of his life to his department and his community.

Many dignitaries, from fellow police chiefs to his own officers, to state and local lawmakers, all had their chance to go to the podium and have their say about Clancy.

“Spine, grit, tenacity all joined together with kindness and love, what more could we ask,” said State Representative Shannon Erickson, a friend of Clancy’s. “The City of Beaufort, we have large shoes to fill, and it is going to take all of us together as a family as a team to fill them.”

“The chief would put himself between his officers and the bad guys,” said Beaufort Sgt Chris Cushman. “That’s what he wanted to do. That was him.”

Clancy’s son Tyler and Connor each spoke at the Memorial Service

“Beneath the badge, there was a heart, there was a soul, there was a moral compass,” said Keyserling. “There was an understanding of when you talk and when you listen. There was a sense of humility, there was a sense of fairness, there was a desire to learn and keep learning, there was a desire to build a family.”

But it was his family, in the form of his two sons, who made the biggest impact, speaking proudly of their father.

“I know that if we did our best to serve and love those of whom we come in contact with,” said Tyler. “Within our own little sphere of influence, just like my dad did. This crazy world would be a whole lot better.”

Clancy had been with the Beaufort Police Department since 1997. He was named police chief in 2008.

He graduated from The Citadel in 1986 and was an infantry officer in the Marine Corps before starting his career, first with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and had continued working while undergoing treatment before losing his nearly five-year-long battle on July 30.

“Let me be very clear, cancer didn’t win this battle,” said Tyler. “Cancer would have won if it took away our smiles, if it took away his laughter, if it took away his drive, his passion if it took away his faith. Cancer lost because it could never take away my father’s spirit.”

“The last words my dad said to me and my family were to just keep going,” said Connor, the chief’s other son. “He said you are on the right track and to not let this derail you. All he’s ever wanted is to not be a burden to us, and he’s done quite that. My dad has created quite a legacy at work, at church, at home. And I will try to live like my dad in word and deed.”

“Matt we will miss you, but we will never, ever forget you,” said Keyserling.

The final words of this service belonged to the Beaufort police dispatch, who made Clancy’s final call: “We are grateful for your 27 years of service to our community. Rest easy, we will take it from here. Godspeed Chief Matt Clancy.”

The tributes didn’t just end in the park.

The Technical College of the Lowcountry has named an annual $25,000 criminal justice scholarship in Clancy’s name.

And in Columbia, South Carolina Friday, flags were flown at half staff above the state house to honor the fallen chief.

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