The Obit For Slick Brittain

Cramerton's first police chief dies

The Gaston Gazette, June 7, 2008 - 6:17PM

Lewis "Slick" Brittain was a policeman in Gaston County before patrol cars had radios and he loved every minute of his career in law enforcement, his daughter Sue Sweatt said Saturday.

Brittain, who became the first police chief of Cramerton after the town incorporated in 1967, died Saturday at the age of 87, after battling cancer and heart problems, Sweatt said.

Cramerton's first police force was small, Sweatt said. But by the mid-1960s, kids were getting into drugs and Brittain's job wasn't always like policing Mayberry, Sweatt said.

"Gaston County was noted for its liquor stills and liquor runs. It wasn't a lazy day job," Sweatt said. "It was different being on a smaller force. I think he enjoyed it because it was a community thing and he knew lots of folks."

Brittain, a McAdenville native, got his nickname for "slicking back his jet-black hair," Sweat said. But before police work, he made a name for himself as a sharpshooter and playing minor league and semi-professional baseball. In fact, he met his wife, Mary Melton Brittain, while playing baseball in Greenville, S.C., Sweatt said.

After he was married, he joined the Gaston County Sheriff's Office and he took up cattle farming.

"He loved his cows," Sweatt said. "I don't know which he loved more his cows or the police force."

And Brittain loved his family dearly, said Sweatt, who is one of three daughters. With a police chief for a father,
Sweat said she and her sisters couldn't get away with anything, and their boyfriends were always a little intimidated.

"He caught us for everything we did wrong. That was a given," Sweatt said. "He'd usually meet us at the door if he wasn't happy. He always interviewed all the boys that took us out. He was real protective."

But he was also a playful and loving father, who would chase his daughters through the house and around the yard. And he inspired three of his grandsons to play baseball and one, Scott Sweatt, is a police officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

"He was a good father, a good grandfather. He'd do anything he could for you and he didn't ever expect anything in return," Sweatt said. "He was special. I think he was very well respected."