`Face of SLED dies at age 70 Longtime spokesman helped law enforcement with media
Columbia Hugh Munn, the first public information officer for the State Law Enforcement Division, died Friday at Lexington Medical Center.
He was 70 years old.
Munn joined SLED, the states lead police force, in 1976, after working for years as a journalist, including at The State newspaper.
For many in South Carolina, Munn became ``the face of SLED, standing before cameras at the thresholds of major crime scenes across the state, explaining fatal tragedies to the general public, delivering shocking details into criminal investigations or disclosing the wayward actions of trusted public officials.
``In my early days at SLED, Hugh was sort of the face of SLED, said chief Mark Keel, who joined the agency in 1979. ``It was kind of a running joke that anytime we went anywhere and the media showed up on anything big, when a reporter would walk up (asking questions), wed just say `No, call Hugh Munn. And thats the way it was.
Munn was very professional, Keel said, and had a great relationship with the media and with law enforcement in general.
``He did the (public information officer) function for us, but not only for us. Many times, especially in those early days, other law enforcement agencies that didnt have PIOs, when serious things would happen, he would be the one who maybe would speak on behalf of a sheriff or chief of police, because they had requested of (the late former SLED) Chief (J.P.) Strom to handle the media.
Munn was dependable and always available, said Keel, who was named interim SLED chief in 2007, after the retirement of longtime Chief Robert Stewart in November 2007. Keel was named SLED chief in July 2011 after moving to the Department of Public Safety in July 2008.
``He was just a true professional in every sense of the word, Keel said of Munn, who served as SLED spokesman for 26 years. ``We were very sad to hear this morning he had passed away.
A native of Camden, Munn is survived by his wife of 40 years, Linda, two daughters, Sarah and Melissa, and other close relatives.
``Hugh was the groundbreaker for public information for law enforcement,
said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, a longtime friend of Munn and the Munn family. ``He blazed a path for everybody.
``He was the first one to come from a journalist background to law enforcement and you see now, he was the model that just about everybody now copies, Lott said.
Munn ``trained everybody that currently is in the law enforcement business (in the state) on how to do the media side, Lott said. ``We really didnt know how to do it. He brought us from the Dark Ages into the new ages of public information.
When Munn retired from SLED in 2002, he started a new career teaching in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at USC. He also developed training programs for international media and law enforcement based on best practices for the missing child AMBER Alert System.
``Everybody respected him, said Lott, who has been in law enforcement for
38 years, and added, ``Hugh Munn has been there all that time.
Stewart, who formed a law enforcement and Home Land Security consulting agency when he retired from SLED in 2007, also offered remembrances of Munn.
``He was a true professional and always operated with integrity, Stewart said. ``In dealing with the media, he was trusted. If Hugh Munn told the public something through the media, the media trusted him and the public trusted him. He was a man of integrity.
Stewart said he and Munn came to the agency at roughly the same time and that Munn contributed much to SLED for many years.
A private burial is planned, but a public memorial service will be held on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at New Heights Church. Dunbar Funeral Home, Dutch Fork Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.
``He was a true professional and always operated with integrity.
Robert Stewart, SLED chief until November 2007