When Cpl. John Pilgrim was just a rookie cop, he came face to face with the wrong end of a pistol. Arriving on the scene, the assailant turned and brandished a shotgun in one hand and a handgun in the other. Pilgrim recalls that the shotgun was shoved into the belly of another person on the scene, while the pistol was put in his face. “There I was, just a few months on the job, a rookie, and I ended up in that situation,” he said shaking his head from side to side. “Thankfully, that experience ended well.”
Another experience that will be ending well for Pilgrim is his 24-year stint as a local law enforcement officer. That chapter of his life officially comes to a close on June 30, when he will retire from the Cedartown Police Department.
Though many may know him from his days on patrol, most recently he’s won the respect and trust of thousands of students that have walked through the doors at Cedartown High School. A tried and true CHS Bulldog himself (class of 1966), Pilgrim’s spent the last 11 years serving as the school’s resource officer, a job that he says has been enjoyable. “I liked the idea of being around kids. I was able to watch five of my grandkids grow up as I worked there and I’ve gotten so attached to the school.”
He’s also gotten attached to working hard in life. He’s excited yet anxious about moving to the next phase of life: retirement. “I am looking forward to it, but at the same time I am apprehensive. I’ve been working in some form or fashion since I was 16, so this is going to be different.”
Pilgrim has spent the majority of his working life in law enforcement, though he started out as an engineer. It was now retired officer Jimmy Newsome that encouraged him to work for the Cedartown Police Department. The CDP is where he initially started his policing career, but not without a few detours along the way. He spent some time as a supervisor at a local industry and then opened his own service station and wrecker company. He also worked for a time at Advanced Auto Parts, then moved on to the county police department and the Sheriff’s Office. He eventually landed back at the place where it all began, and picked up where he had left off.
“I felt like it was an opportunity to really serve the city that I’d grown up in. I was never one for ticket-writing. Some folks said I was too soft, but I felt that it’s an officer’s duty to serve and protect. We’ve all driven a little too fast or rolled through a stop sign when we’ve had a bad day or a lot on our mind before. I always approached it as a way to inform people of what they did wrong and spread good will instead of making someone’s bad day even worse.”
Pilgrim recalled that he’s never had to use pepper spray on anyone during his 24 years and only twice drew his service weapon.
“I think Cedartown is a wonderful place,” Pilgrim said. “I’ve seen it change a lot – some for the good and some not so good, but I have been honored to serve this town.”
But to the question of what he’ll fill the hours with now that he’s laying down the badge? “Well, I am working on finding a hobby,” he laughed. “I am learning some fishing skills, so I hope to do some of that.” Pilgrim also attends Faith Baptist Church.
The public is invited to attend a retirement reception for Pilgrim on June 30. The reception is a “drop-in” event that is open to the public. It will be held in the council room of City Hall from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.