Medford police officers Kevin Walruff, left, and Greg Lemhouse take in Prescott Park?s view after participating in a color guard for a rededicated memorial honoring the park?s namesake on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven

Rededication ceremony honors Medford's first traffic officer who was shot and killed

Under a cloudy, rain-swollen sky, Medford police on Saturday gathered to honor the first and only local officer killed in the line of duty.

Medford police and the city parks department hosted a rededication ceremony Saturday in Prescott Park to honor Constable George J. Prescott.

Prescott, the city's first traffic officer, was shot and killed 80 years ago today. The department held a color guard and dedicated a new plaque to Prescott. The old one had been destroyed by vandals.

This should be an enduring remembrance in all our lives, Medford police Chaplain Bob Gass said of Prescott, a constable still remembered for his kindness, courage and unassuming manner.

According to Deputy Chief Randy Schoen, Prescott was shot dead in 1933 trying to arrest Llewellyn A. Banks. Prescott is interred at Medford's historic IOOF Cemetery.

Banks was the leader of a crooked political gang called the Good Government Congress. He was being arrested for his alleged role in stealing and destroying election ballots. After the murder, Banks was arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in the Oregon State Penitentiary. He died behind bars Sept. 21, 1945, at the age of 73.

Talent retiree Philip Gates, who attended Saturday's event, remembers going for a ride with Prescott in a police car approximately one month before the officer's death.

It was a big deal for a 6-year-old kid to ride in a police car, said Gates, who was too young to recall what Prescott was like but added that the officer was well-loved by everyone. That ride was really something. He was a real nice guy.

Prescott had been an early supporter of the idea of a park on Roxy Ann, so the area was named for him following his death.

Prescott Park first got its start back in 1929 when the Medford Lions Club bought two tracts of land near the 3,571-foot summit of Roxy Ann and deeded the property to the city for use as a park.

More land was acquired in 1930, bringing the total to 1,740 acres.

When the park was named after Prescott in 1933, the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps began developing it.

But by the 1950s, trails had fallen into disrepair. The abuse continued over the next 30 years, as vandals burned down park amenities and even smashed Prescott's memorial plaque with rocks.

In the 1980s, the police department, city officials, parks personnel and community members began working to restore the park.

The area is now gated at night to protect it from vandals, litterbugs and all off-road and 4-wheel drive vehicles that tear apart the park and surrounding area.

Medford police officer Rob Havice has spearheaded the effort to clean and maintain the park.

He's just held in very high regard to the police department, said Havice, who keeps a picture of Prescott at his home. This park is too precious of an asset to have people destroying it.

Prescott Park is also home to deer, bobcat, wild turkeys, bald eagles and very old madrones. Schoen said while he would like to see further development, it's necessary that the park is a place for both wildlife and visitors.

The improvement here to Prescott Park has really been a community collaboration, Schoen said. It's kind of a diamond in the rough for our community.

About Prescott Park

What: A rustic 1,740-acre city park at the far eastern edge of Medford. The park encompasses Roxy Ann Peak and land north and east of the butte.

Where: Access is via Roxy Ann Road, which is off Hillcrest Road just past Cherry Lane.

When to visit: Gates are closed to vehicle traffic during summer to prevent fires, but open year-round to hikers, cyclists and equestrians. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

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