He entered the office, short sleeved and well-groomed; the minute hand had just passed 10 o’clock on the first clear day of the week. He was short in stride but long in character, his face friendly, his temperament teasing. His name was Long – Dave Long P.I.
On this May morning he was ready to be debriefed, interrogated, his story brought out in the open. His half-century of life in Chester is well known by a younger generation, and those who have witnessed his community service and special talent for mentoring. During Long’s 48 years as a private investigator, he’s been less like Philip Marlowe than just a hard working stiff, working for attorneys, administering lie detector tests, and recovering embezzled property.
“I was born in Dogtown; that was south Richmond. I walked to Franklin School every day. I lived at the top of the hill and two of us would start off walking, it was nothing more than a pig path, but by the time we got to school there would be 50 of us,” Long said.
He moved to Belmont Road with his parents as a teenager.
“I thought they had taken me to the wilderness,” Long laughed. “I was used to walking or taking the bus everywhere. There was a big farm across from us – a cattle farm. We’d make a $1.50 a load cleaning stalls.”
As Long grew up and used his stall-cleaning cash as mad money, as many teenagers do, he sometimes ran afoul of the local law.
“A police officer lived two doors from us called Bootsy Welton. He would see you speeding or something like that and he wouldn’t stop you but he’d catch up with you later andsay ‘I’m going to tell your mama’ and that was the worst thing that could happen.”
He started Ethical Investigations in 1964 after doing some undercover work for the police department. He had applied to be a police officer for Chesterfield but they had only 16 police officers at the time and didn’t have room for him.
“So I rented a little office for $16 a month and shared it with Woodfin, who was the county magistrate,” Long said.
He got into politics, and supported a number of officials in their election campaigns, such as Lee Gordon, Dave Satterfield, Bill Humphries and Senator Fred Gray. Lawyers would refer cases to him. He says he’s run about 8,000 cases during his years as a P.I., with some being $50 cases and some as high as $100,000. “Some pretty big cases,” he said.
“I’ve done some murder cases, defense cases and things of that nature,” Long said. “We did the Cubbage case,” Long said. “She was stabbed 168 times.
We were hired by the circuit court to help find evidence in favor of [Edward B.] Fitzgerald [Sr. the defendant].” Patricia Cubbage was a 22-year police informant whose murderer, Fitzgerald, was executed by electric chair in 1992. Long says the wheels of justice will prevail, and cases will take a lot of twists and turns.
In Chester, Long is known as the guy who, along with his scout troop, built the Troop 819 lodge, the log cabin on Dodomeade Street in the old Chester village. Long found the logs and made arrangements to have them hauled in. Once his sons David Jr. and Christopher joined the Boy Scouts, Long saw both of them achieve Eagle status in the troop he is involved with to this day.
There’s more than one funny story of Long’s antics in Chester. Some may have seen his pig at Chester Rotary events and the pig mask he wears during the now retired HOG barbeque gathering. But a story that really gallops is one that sounds farfetched but has corroborating evidence.
“I used to ride my horse around Chester in the old days and would stop at Magee’s Drug Store for a drink. They didn’t sell alcohol,” he said. “I ride up, someone opens the door and I lean down and ride in. I came right back out.”
Larry Madison Jr. talks about Long’s horse in Magee’s telling the story with flair and sprinkled with unrestrained laughter. Madison, who owns Madison Environmental, was a member of Long’s scout troop when he was growing up. “I recall Dave telling a lot of stories,” Madison said. “He’s been a mentor and a father figure to me since my own father passed away. But he’s a real community asset. He’s spent countless hours volunteering at Grace Lutheran Church, the Rotary bowling tournament and ringing the bell for the Salvation Army during Christmas season. He’s really a plugger for the community. He’s been quietly serving and when something needs being done, he’s out there doing it.”
Long has managed the grounds at Grace Lutheran for 12 years. His building and maintenance of the scout cabin has garnered him praise from the troop, and his community service is unquestionably unselfish and cherished, according to those who know him well.
His family has always been his first priority. David Jr., has been a partner in Ethical Investigators since 1980 and specializes in polygraph testing. The remainder of his family stays close as well. His family includes his wife Beverly, David Jr., and Christopher and their wives, Bonnie and Kelly, respectively, daughter Sharon Quigley and her children Vickie and Kevin, who joins the family tradition of making Eagle Scout, and David Jr.’s children Brittany and Hunter, another Eagle Scout.
Phillip Marlowe may be who he is after all but more in the sense of the style and the ethical way in which he lives his life.