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Master Trooper John S. Horton

North Carolina Highway Patrol
End of Watch: 01/03/2022

Trooper John S. Horton


John Horton worried that people had the wrong impression of law enforcement – that they thought police were crooked and, worse, that kids were frightened of them. So he spent his 15-year career as a North Carolina state trooper trying to change minds, one interaction at a time.

“When he pulled people over he wanted them to know that he cared about them as a person,” recalled his widow, Ashley. “Even if he gave them a ticket, they went away feeling they had a better experience because of him. He was one of those people that made you feel better.” His efforts went above and beyond his duty. He would buy donuts for kids in convenience stores just so they wouldn’t feel scared around cops but instead feel safe. Once when he was issuing a ticket in the parking lot of a Bojangles, he saw that the driver’s child was in the car’s back seat. John gave the driver his citation – and a $20 bill, telling him to buy the child lunch.

John’s outlook on life and approach to the world was driven by his deep Christian faith. “He wanted people to see God’s grace and love through him and how he treated people,” Ashley said. Nowhere was that love and joy more evident than John’s home life. He and Ashley, who had been high school sweethearts, had six children upon whom John doted. He played the guitar, mostly bluegrass, and would replace song lyrics with ones he made up on the spot to amuse his family. Ashley’s especially loved when he would change the lyrics of Ricky Skaggs’s “A Simple Life” to fit her: “My favorite woman is 5'1"/With long blonde hair and blue eyes.”

Tragedy struck on a snowy, sleety day in January 2022. A fellow trooper arriving to give John backup at a traffic stop lost control of his car, hitting and killing him. Afterward people kept approaching Ashley to tell her about the difference John and his demeanor had made in their lives and their community. In a life well-lived but tragically cut short, John had succeeded in changing minds and touching hearts.



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