“It’s a beautiful day” was Les Ferguson’s trademark quote, one thing everyone will remember most about the long-time instructor at the East Texas police academy.

A 2011 Lexus SUV hit the Harley Davidson Ferguson was riding as he was traveling to work at Kilgore College’s police academy Wednesday morning.

Jean Dark, Texas Department of Public Safety trooper, said the SUV driver was traveling in the right lane and Ferguson was in the left lane as they traveled south on Texas Highway 31 at Loop 323 approaching Interstate 20. Trooper Dark said the SUV driver decided to make a U-turn before reaching the I-20 intersection and hit Ferguson’s motorcycle causing Ferguson to lose control. “The accident remains under investigation at this time and the state reconstruction team is on scene recording all of the information so they can put it all together,” she said.

Students in the East Texas Fire Academy, which is in the same building as the police academy, raised the flag and then lowered it to half-staff and saluted in honor of the fallen instructor and peace officer.

Peace officers from across the nation were saddened by the news. “He trained thousands of officers all over Texas. His funeral will be the largest in East Texas law enforcement history,” Tim McLemee, a former investigator with the Van Zandt County District Attorney’s Office, said Wednesday. “He was a great guy and many in law enforcement are in disbelief this morning.”

Kilgore College spokesman Chris Craddock said chaplains and counselors were working with staff and students as the death has greatly affected the academy. “It’s a tough time right now for them,” he said.

Kilgore College President Bill Holda said in a statement, “The Kilgore College family is deeply saddened with the shocking news about the accident which caused the death of Les Ferguson. Les was a valuable instructor in the East Texas Police Academy and his untimely death is a tremendous loss for our institution.”

Ferguson’s Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education’s record shows he worked as a peace officer for the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office, Kilgore College Police Department, White Oak Police Department, Longview Police Department and the Lakeport Police Department. He was employed as an instructor since 1990 and was listed as a reserve officer for White Oak Police Department.

“Tremendous loss for law enforcement in Texas. Les was a dedicated and wonderful officer and full time instructor for the East Texas LEA, and was a member of the Blue Knights. My heart and prayers go out to the family,” Kim Vickers, executive director of Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, said in a statement Wednesday.

Ferguson’s Facebook page exploded with hundreds of prayers, thoughts and remembrances to the instructor so many loved. “Fourteen years ago as I crossed the doors of East Texas Police Officers Academy, I met an awesome instructor, a true friend. It breaks my heart to hear of such a loss today. Gone but never forgotten. Prayers to all who know you, and those that will hear of you along the way. Rest in peace Les,” Jackie Miers posted on Ferguson’s page. Another post said “It’s a beautiful day. Those words will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Les. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. You were a great instructor and person.”