East Point’s first African American police officer, who now owns one of the city’s foremost funeral homes, will have a street renamed in his honor. At its Feb 21 meeting, the East Point City Council voted unanimously to rename Hendrix Drive, near the intersection of Norman Berry Drive and Cleveland Avenue, Gus Thornhill, Jr. Drive in honor of the 59-year old funeral director. A life-long resident of East Point, Thornhill joined the city police force in 1965 and spent more than a quarter century in law enforcement, rising to the rank of major before his retirement in 1990. A father of three with 12 grandchildren, he opened Gus Thornhill’s Funeral Home 21 years ago but has more than 50 years experience in the funeral business, starting at age 9 with a job washing hearses. The request to rename the street in Thornhill’s honor was made by the Rev. Robert Melson Sr., Pastor of Dodd Sterling United Methodist Church and Chaplin at Thornhill’s Funeral Home.
“It is appropriate for our city to name Hendrix Drive for a man who has given his life in service to East Point and the surrounding area,” Melson said in addressing the council. Deeply moved by the honor, Thornhill, who still lives on the same property he was born on, said he was “honored but humbled” by the council’s quick approval of the measure. He first became involved in the funeral business when he took the hearse washing job at Walker’s Funeral Home, which stood for 50 years in East Point. He not only credits Henry Walker, owner of that funeral home for being his mentor and inspiration. He said it was through Walker’s friendship with then-East Point Police Chief Bill Tyler that he was able to join the force 35 years ago. While with the police department, Thornhill served in numerous divisions, including the uniform and detective divisions. When he retired, he was watch commander of the uniform division.