Harold E. (Hal) Britton grew up in the 1930s, his home just a few blocks from Fresno's premier recreational facility, Holmes Playground. As a boy, he practically lived on its baseball fields. A natural athlete, who loved to compete, Hal earned 7 Roosevelt High School varsity letters in baseball, football, and basketball and attracted scouts from the professional St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds.
Like so many of his generation, Hal's opportunities were interrupted, as well as shaped, by World War II. In the spring of 1943, he graduated early and joined the U.S. Coast Guard, serving until 1946. Following his return home to Fresno after the war, Hal decided to turn down four professional baseball contract offers in favor of pursuing his education at USC. He had plans to become an athletic coach, but after successfully completing two semesters at USC, while home on summer break in 1947, Hal was encouraged to take the application exams for the Fresno Police Department. He subsequently joined the police ranks that September and was thereafter known as the "Catching Cop", working the midnight-to-eight shift, playing softball during the week and semi-pro baseball on the weekends at a highly competitive level. Catching for the Hoak Packers, Hal won 4 national softball titles and was named to 5 national All Tournament teams from 1950-1955. In 1960, Hal led his Fresno Police baseball team to the state championship and to represent California at the national semi-pro baseball tournament in Wichita. For these athletic achievements, Hal was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992 and into the International Fast Pitch Softball Congress in 2008.
After 1955, in order to devote himself more fully to his wife Rhett, his growing family, and his duties as a police officer, he retired from softball competition. He did so, however, with no regrets. During and after his career as a police officer, Hal took great pride is serving in every rank of the Fresno Police Department from beat cop to Chief of Police. Throughout his police career, he reached out to the community, meeting with neighborhood leaders and organizations in order to promote positive relations and effective policing for the people of Fresno. During the student protests and unrest on the Fresno State campus in 1970, he successfully led policing efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis. In the 1970s, he also met with with the United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez, to ensure safe, lawful protests. Throughout his service to the department and the community, he conducted himself with uncommon personal and professional integrity, advocating for his officers and leading the department by example with an innate and steadfast sense of decency and fairness.
During retirement, Hal enjoyed more time with his wife, family, and close friends. His passion for sports continued, as he golfed regularly, supported the Bulldog Foundation, and then the Fresno Grizzles by serving on its advisory committee and watching Grizzlies games from batting practice through extra innings as a season ticket holder. No player or team ever had a bigger fan.
Hal's passion for excellence permeated his life as he provided loving enthusiastic guidance to his 2 daughters, Linda Igoa and Rebecca Britton, and to his 7 grandchildren, Brandon Haley, Brad Haley, Joslyn Igoa, Ashley Igoa, Bryson Haley, Brittaney Haley, and Chad Igoa, supporting them in all educational and life pursuits and providing them a life example worthy of emulation.
In the four years prior to his death, Hal inspired his family and friends as he persevered through serious illness and injury, demonstrating an extraordinary courage, vigor, and determination to reclaim and maintain an active quality of life. He was a good man, a decent man and his was an extraordinary life and a full life that his loved ones will long celebrate.
In addition to his daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Hal is survived by his two devoted brothers, Dave Britton of Bakersfield, and Norm Britton and his wife Shirley, of Fresno.
Funeral Service will be held at the Lisle Calaveras Chapel on Friday, August 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm. Interment at Belmont Memorial Park.