September 20, 2012 - North Myrtle Beach, SC - The City of North Myrtle Beach announced that Merlin Bellamy, former Chief of Police and Public Safety Director, passed away on September 19. He was 85 years old.
Provided by City of North Myrtle BeachThe announcement recalled that Merlin was hired by the Town of Ocean Drive Beach as Chief of Police in 1949. When the Towns of Ocean Drive Beach, Crescent Beach, Cherry Grove Beach and Windy Hill Beach merged in 1968 to become the City of North Myrtle Beach, Merlin was hired as the City’s first Chief of Police and served in that capacity through 1977. In 1978, he was promoted to the new position of Director of Public Safety and served in that capacity until 1980. After that time, Merlin served in a variety of City positions, until his retirement on March 31, 1990.
Merlin was a strong local and national figure. The latter standing developed when a violent and destructive hurricane known as Hazel elected to come ashore in Ocean Drive Beach in 1954.
As the storm developed out in the ocean and progressed along its course, there were stories about it having killed several hundred people in Haiti but forecasts called for Hazel to "harmlessly pass out to sea."
"It was just absolutely a beautiful autumn afternoon," Merlin told USA TODAY in a 2004 interview about the day before Hazel's sneak attack on South Carolina. "There was not even so much as a hurricane flag flapping in the light breeze."
However, as the USA TODAY story recounted, by the next morning the Town of Ocean Drive Beach, as well as most of South Carolina's Grand Strand and beach towns just across the state line in North Carolina, had been leveled by one of the most destructive hurricanes ever recorded along the coast of the Carolinas. In those days before computer modeling, five-day forecasts and the Weather Channel, it was also one of the last storms to sneak up on the coast.
As a result of his experience with Hurricane Hazel, Merlin Bellamy developed the first Hurricane Preparedness Plan for Ocean Drive Beach and it was adopted by many other beach towns. His experience in hurricane and disaster planning, and crisis management, became even more sophisticated and effective during his years with the City of North Myrtle Beach.
The Bellamy family will receive friends from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 22 at Lee Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 23 at LordsWay Baptist Church. Merlin will be laid to rest at Southern Palms Memorial Gardens. The North Myrtle Beach Public Safety Honor Guard will participate in his funeral, and Police Officers will serve as pall bearers.