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Daughter recalls strength of her mother, a Culpeper police pioneer

Prior to becoming a longtime public school educator, Doreen Jameson Holden served as president of the practically all-male graduating class of Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Training Center in 1987.

Her peers, including one other woman in the class, picked the former Culpeper resident for the leadership role as part of the intensive multi-month training program.

The Culpeper Police Department still uses the center to certify new officers per standards set by the commonwealth of Virginia.

Doreen Jameson went on to become the first state-certified female police officer in Culpeper upon graduation 35 years ago, according to an article by the late newspaperman, Vincent Vala, in the Culpeper Star-Exponent, preserved by her family.

Her daughter, Leslie “Gigi” Jameson Hanson, is very proud of the distinction as is the former police officer, a retired 5th grade teacher who now lives in Petersburg. The two are close, having endured great successes and sadness, loss and achievement.

Theirs is a story of a mother’s tireless love and drive to achieve, and a grateful daughter. Holden is a female forerunner.

“She has always been so driven, especially education-wise,” said Hanson, recalling stories she heard from her grandparents. “She had my sister at a very young age, took a week off and went back to school.”

Starting out, pushing through

A teen mom, Holden graduated in 1977 from Culpeper County High School and later worked swing shift for a couple years as a dispatcher for the Culpeper Police Department under the late Chief C.B. Jones. She was married and raising three children by the age of 23—two daughters and a son.

A decade after high school, the young woman was working patrol on the streets at a time still slow to catch up with civil rights.

“She was met with… It was not a welcome thing at first,” said Hanson, a trust fund company manager who grew up and still resides in the family’s Culpeper home. “She just pushed.”

Holden told her daughter about an incident at the police academy. One of the trainers unfairly singled out the young Black female trainee on numerous occasions, but she did not want to ruffle feathers, Hanson said.

The story goes her classmates got together and filed a complaint.

“She pushed through that to become the president of the training academy,” her daughter said.

Back home, some men on the force didn’t believe women were physically up for the physically demanding job of being a police officer, Hanson said. But Officer Doreen was about to prove them wrong.

‘You treated people with respect’

The former officer, in a phone call last week, remembered the start of her police career.

“Chief Jones saw how I handled the disputes that came into the police department, and he approached me to see if I would be interested in becoming a police officer,” Holden said.

She made the decision to pursue the career, completed field and basic training: “I never looked back, did quite well,” she said.

Added Hanson, “Chief Jones was an integral part of her success at the police department, urging her to give it her all.”

Years later, the officer got a state instructor’s license for domestic disputes response, one her strengths, Holden said.

She was born in Washington, D.C. and moved to Culpeper as a child when schools were still segregated by race. Holden attended A.G. Richardson, an all-Black elementary school, moved on to Farmington and graduated from the integrated high school.

Getting into law enforcement was her niche, the former officer said.

“A lot of women were very leery about it, but I don’t know…once I hit the street you knew I wasn’t a leg-behind person. I answered all kinds of calls for service, backing up officers, going on calls by myself,” Holden recalled.

It wasn’t for everyone, she admitted, but it was for her.

“Once you felt the reputation build, because you treated people with respect, but I did my job that I did,” Holden said. “I believe I served the community with distinction, a lot of accolades, and a lot of people that showed me respect, including the officers I worked with.”

Tragedy times two

The unthinkable happened in 1989 when the local officer lost her first-born, her 12-year-old daughter, Stephanie, to drowning in a canoeing accident at a local resort.

Gigi was 6 when her sister died.

“I was attached to her hip,” Hanson said of how close she was to her big sister.

Their brother, Brian Jameson, was in the middle, age-wise, and also impacted by the loss.

The unexpected struck again in 1991 when the family’s patriarch, Michael Jameson, died from an aneurysm, leaving his police officer wife alone to care for their two surviving children.

Mrs. Doreen decided she needed to step away from law enforcement.

“My brother and I were very fearful after losing our sister, became the future of us pulling closer together and after dad passed we could not fathom anything else happening,” said her daughter. “You take a risk every time you put on that uniform.”

Added her mother, “We were just so broken. We lost half the family in a very short period of time…I tried to work. They were not functional, they were afraid I wouldn’t come home.”

Moving on, a career in education

So Holden went back to college and got her teaching degree, with honors, from Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg. She worked a couple jobs along the way, never missed a school event or special occasion with her kids and always had dinner on the table, recalled her daughter.

“How did she do it? You have to believe in magic,” said Hanson.

The mother of two set her college schedule to match her children’s school schedule so she could be back in the area when they got home. She attended year-round and ended up with more credits than she needed.

Holden recalled that Ruth Davies, the mother of longtime and still-practicing Culpeper attorney and former State Del. John J. “Butch” Davies III, helped get Holden her first job at Pearl Sample Elementary School. She worked two stints there, and worked for a time as a social worker with the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Holden, remarried, moved to Petersburg in the mid-2000s and taught another 17 years there before retiring just prior to the pandemic.

She contracted COVID-19 before the vaccine was available. Though not hospitalized, she is living with residual health conditions from the infectious virus that has killed one million Americans.

“Long-haul issues,” Holden said. “Fatigue and brain fog—not being myself.”

Female firsts brought to light

Holden has eight grandchildren and positive memories of her time as a woman pioneer on the Culpeper Police Department. She worked with today’s Chief Chris Jenkins as well as former Officers Brooking and Pinksaw.

Officer Doreen in the late 1980s to early ‘90s worked with other African-American police forerunners Roscoe Ford, for whom the police building is named, and Ella Drumgoole, the department’s first female member, said her daughter. Hanson remembered growing up in a family environment at the station, with Ford, who she considered another grandfather, and Drumgoole, always a smiling face.

Holden and her daughter were dismayed, then, to not be included on the new mural going up downtown that features Drumgoole, along with other firsts and notable achievers in local African-American history.

Her mother was the first female police officer with the agency, wrote Hanson in an email to the Star-Exponent, referencing Wednesday’s article, “New downtown mural depicts African-American trailblazers of Culpeper.”

The article states Drumgoole was the first police officer in Culpeper, based on research from the muralist, Layton Scarbrough, in consultation with Chief Jenkins, family members and Culpeper Renaissance, Inc., co-sponsor of the mural project along with Windmore Foundation for the Arts and building owner Brian Lam.

But Vala’s article from 1987 and Jameson family history recall the first as Officer Doreen.

Chief Jenkins, asked by email about the question, responded Ella Drumgoole was department’s first female police officer.

“Chief Jones moved her from meter maid to police officer. Doreen Jameson came a few years later, I went to school and worked with Doreen, she was excellent police officer.

“Unfortunately she lost her daughter in a drowning accident, went on to teaching. Both incredible good professionals, was a privilege to work alongside both,” said Jenkins.

Both achieved firsts.

Scarbrough recently learned about Jameson and wanted to honor her accomplishments, so he did a drawing of her in her police uniform. He said Saturday morning he cannot change the approved mural design, which he longer owns, in order to add Mrs. Jameson.

“I did this portrait as a way to say thank you to Doreen’s contributions to the history and legacy of the town of Culpeper,” said the young artist.

‘Keep working for it’

To say that her mom persevered in so many ways is an understatement, said Hanson.

“She was a young mother, who battled through losing a daughter and a husband all while doing her part to keep Culpeper safe,” she explained. “The word ‘officer,’ to my mother, means striving for success, excelling through tears, sacrificing time with family for the betterment of our community.

“She gave all to this town even when she was broken from loss,” said the daughter. “I just really wanted Mom to know how much I admire her ability to do all things in the face of adversity and sorrow.”

Holden said it’s been 20 years since she looked at her old police memorabilia, back at the family home. Her daughter found items for this article, including her mom’s police badge and the police academy graduation program.

Starting her career, Officer Jameson told the Star-Exponent, “I’ve always been interested in police work but never really thought I would have the chance to do it. But now I’ve come to realize anything I really want I can have, as long as I stay with it and keep working for it.”

That attitude still persists in her daughter, 35 years and many life experiences later.

“It made me so proud of her, the fact she was able to push through so many things,” said Hanson. “It made it very easy for me to understand that even on my worst day, I could do great things.”

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