Making ends meet wasn’t always easy. Employed as a patrol officer and later in the detective division at the Chapel Hill Police Department, former Orange County Sheriff Albert “Lindy” Pendergrass still wasn’t making enough for his family of four.
He was determined to make it work.
Lindy picked up a number of part-time jobs across town to supplement what he was making at the police department. He worked security at Belk and for the University. He taught at Durham Technical Community College. He worked at the A&P.
From 1956 to 1982, Saturdays were spent working Gate 5 of Kenan Memorial Stadium. Lindy’s son Kemp would run up the hill to stand with his dad at his post. After the game was over, Kemp would follow his dad through town, stopping to chat with his friends and have breakfast.
“He was a working machine,” Kemp said.
Ask anyone about Lindy’s work ethic and you’re sure to get stories about the long hours he put in and the dedication he gave to every job he had. Still, family always came first.
“Even though he worked all the time, we were his priority,” said Kitza Williams, Lindy’s daughter. “He just juggled it all.”
He had a way of making the most basic tasks feel special, Kitza said.
As a child Kitza hated washing her hair because it meant she had to dry it under a large, loud salon dryer.
Lindy would put the dryer on the table and make a comfy pile of pillows for his daughter. Once she was under the dryer, he would hand her a glass cup filled with pudding.
“He would do whatever it took to make us content or happy,” Kitza said.
More than anything, Lindy wanted to help people. That’s why he ran for sheriff in 1982.
Lindy had a lot to worry about. Orange County had a population of 78,644 in his first year, and it only increased from there.
Despite his heavy workload, Lindy directed every funeral procession he could.
“He would be out there directing traffic because he knew important it was for the families,” Kemp said.
Lindy got up before the sun. He was at the office two hours before he needed to be there, coffee in hand.
As dedicated as he was to his work, he was even more dedicated to his employees.
Every Christmas Day, Lindy got up early to cook breakfast for the inmates at the county jail, giving his staff the morning off. Then, he would head home to his family.
“The man never expected you to learn anything he hadn’t done or wouldn’t do himself,” Tracy Smith, who worked as Lindy’s assistant from 2012 to 2014, said.
Lindy almost never missed work, meaning he saved up a good number of sick days. When other employees needed to take extended time off because of an illness or other personal reason, Lindy would give them his sick time.
“He did not take care of himself the way he should have, because he was always trying to do these things for us,” Kemp said.
Paul Atherton first met Lindy while working for his son at Landlubber's Seafood, an old Chapel Hill seafood restaurant.
When Lindy would come in to grab lunch, he and Paul would always chat. Paul was interested in law enforcement and wanted to know more about Lindy’s job.
Lindy noticed Paul’s curiosity.
One day, Lindy told Paul about a part-time job opening at Lindy’s office doing administrative work. He encouraged him to apply.
“What he showed me was a lot of patience and generosity,” Paul said.
Lindy continued to help Paul as he advanced in his career. He helped Paul get a job at the 911 Telecommunications Center. He sponsored him to go through the police academy. He encouraged him to go back to get his Bachelor’s degree.
“He actually went to great lengths to help me out,” Atherton said. “And then I started thinking, maybe it wasn’t what Lindy saw in me but it was what he thought was the right thing to do, which was to give your time and help somebody out. That’s what he did for me. He basically started my career.
Lindy didn’t like being the center of attention, which is hard to avoid when running for office. Every four years during his eight-term tenure as Orange County sheriff, he avoided the normal campaign fanfare.
“He always told us that he was going to let his record speak for itself,” Kemp said. “His record record was what was going to put him back in office or take him out.”
When Lindy retired in 2014, his office wanted to throw him a retirement party. He refused.
Eventually, he was persuaded to have a small party at his colleague’s house.
“It was the only way they could get anyone to do anything for him,” Marvin Clark, who worked with Lindy at both the Chapel Hill Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office, said. “He just wanted to do his job for the citizens of the county.”
Few things made him happier than doing his work. One of those things was his grandson, Carver.
Lindy, often described as tough and disciplined, had a soft spot for Carver. He always wanted to hold his grandson as a baby, offering to feed him and play with him. When Carver wasn’t feeling well, Lindy would go Walmart early in the morning to get him a little toy.
“When Carver was around he would beam and his whole temperament would change completely,” Kitza said.
As Kemp and Kitza recalled their fondest memories with their father, they both concluded that, no matter the situation, Lindy would do anything he could for his family.
“I can never repay him for everything he did for me and my sister and my mother,” Kemp said. “He was selfless.”