Suspended Norway mayor Jim Preacher dies

Jim Preacher
Jim Preacher
A still image from the January, 2011 dash cam video depicting Jim Preacher's run-in with a Highway patrol trooper.
A still image from the January, 2011 dash cam video depicting Jim Preacher's run-in with a Highway patrol trooper.

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The man best known for attracting big time controversy to the small South Carolina town of Norway has died.

James Arren "Jim" Preacher, Jr. died Sunday night after suffering a heart attack at his home, according to town officials.

"Jim was no angel," said Norway resident Chuck Blake. "He was no angel, but if you needed Jim -- I don't care what time of the night or day it was -- he was there for you."

Preacher had been a fixture in the Orangeburg County town of 336 people for the better part of 23 years, moving there to become chief of police in 1990. He held that position until being fired in 2007.

He later took over the police department in the Bamberg County town of Ehrhardt.

Two years after being fired, Preacher ran for and won his old seat back in Norway, unseating the man who terminated him. He presided over just one council meeting before abruptly quitting and attempting to return to the chief of police position in Ehrhardt.

That didn't happen, though. The South Carolina Attorney General's office decided that once he took the oath of office in Norway, he gave up his job in Ehrhardt. That town's governing body voted against re-hiring him.

Finding himself without a job, he ran for mayor again in Norway in 2011. He was victorious by just four votes.

He started his celebration by apologizing. "I want to apologize for the embarrassment in the last swearing in," said Preacher. "I shouldn't have done what I did."

Most recently, Preacher, who was mayor at the time, made statewide headlines when he pulled a South Carolina state trooper over after receiving a ticket from the officer. He told the trooper he, as the town's self-appointed constable, was pursuing a vehicle suspected in an attempted robbery.

Arrest warrants allege Preacher had no authority, as mandated by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, to make a traffic stop on a South Carolina Highway Patrolman who had pulled Preacher over minutes before.

Preacher was cited for driving the city's Dodge Charger 70 mph in a 55 mph zone.

After he was given the ticket, the trooper's dash cam video shows Preacher make a U-turn and turn his lights and sirens on to make a stop on the trooper.

"Can I see your driver's license?" the Norway mayor asked the trooper. The trooper pulls his license out when Preacher tells him the reason for the stop, "Are you familiar with interfering with a police officer?" Preacher asked.

Preacher took the trooper's license and patrol car registration and spent 23 minutes with it, sitting inside his Charger. The trooper's dash cam audio caught the entire episode. You can hear the trooper complying with Preacher's commands, and then a string of phone calls between the trooper and his supervisors.

"Son, you got a lot to learn," Preacher told the trooper as he handed him his license back and drove away. Preacher did not issue the trooper a ticket for interfering.

Preacher claimed he was serving in his duties as village constable when he stopped the trooper. He later resigned his duties as Norway's chief constable.

A SLED investigation also led to accusations Preacher hired his son to a position at the town's Water Treatment Department without approval.

The incidents led to two grand jury indictments for impersonating a law enforcement officer and misconduct in office.

In July, Gov. Nikki Haley suspended him from office. According to the executive order, Preacher was to be suspended until he is either acquitted or convicted of the charges against him.

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