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Past Sheriffs

The wild “wild west” is actually responsible for producing our modem legendary figure of The Sheriff. In reality though, he was a person of real stature, long before the days of Tombstone, Arizona.

Some educators contend that the word sheriff is actually derived from the Arabic word sharif, meaning illustrious or noble. We are sure, however, that the concept of sheriff, as we know it, began in early England with the constable. The constable was responsible for keeping law and order for a group of one hundred people. The hundreds were eventually grouped to form a “shire” - a geographical area equivalent to a county, and the citizens of each shire were pledged to maintain law and order within boundaries.

In the 10th century, the Anglo-Saxon shire was controlled by an ealdorman, who presided in its court jointly with the bishop and the king’s reeve.

By the 19th century, the ealdorman had become responsible for a whole province rather than just a single shire, and the separation of the ecclesiastical from the secular courts under William 1st left the new shire-reeve preeminent in the county and president of its court.

Thus, a shire-reeve, the ancestral term for thousands of sheriffs to come, was appointed by the Crown to supervise each county. The constable’s authority remained limited to the one hundred in his geographical area, but the shire-reeve became responsible to the local noblemen to insure that law and order were enforced effectively throughout that county. Accordingly, in time, the coroner, constable, and justice of the peace all took their duties from the “sheriff”.

Soon afterward, the sheriff expanded his responsibilities to take part in the pursuit and apprehension of lawbreakers (and to become liable for their safe keeping once caught), to attend on the judges at assizes and election petitions, to prepare panels of jurors, and to execute all writs.

The colonists drew upon this same effective law enforcement structure in their rural America as early as 1634 when Virginia Colony established its counties. There also, the constable was responsible for law and order in towns, and the sheriff took charge of enforcing order in the counties.

Virginia Governor, Thomas Jefferson (1779-1781) principle author of the Declaration of Independence who later became the third president of the United States (1801-1809), called the office of sheriff, “The most important of all the executive offices.”

Term Name Term Name
2008 - Present Jim Hammond 1896 - 1902 Samuel C. Bush
Feb 2008 - Aug 2008 Allen Branum 1894 - 1896 Frederick S. Hyde
2006 - 2008 Billy Long 1890 - 1894 John R. Skillern
1994 - 2006 John Cupp 1888 - 1890 Azariah Shelton
1978 - 1994 H. Q. Evatt 1886 - 1888 John Emory Conner
1976 - 1978 Jerry Pitts 1884 - 1886 S. C. Pyott
1974 - 1976 Frank Newell 1882 - 1884 H. J. Springfield
1968 - 1974 H. Q. Evatt 1882 - 1882 William T. Cate
1963 - 1968 Frank Newell 1878 - 1882 H. J. Springfield
1963 - 1963 Robert Summitt 1874 - 1878 Charles B. Champion
1958 - 1963 James Turner 1872 - 1874 William H. Bean
1956 - 1958 V. W. Maddox 1870 - 1872 Asberry B. Connor
1950 - 1956 Rex Richey 1868 - 1870 R. G. Campbell
1948 - 1950 Frank J. Burns 1866 - 1868 Asberry B. Connor
1944 - 1948 Grady T. Head 1864 - 1866 George W. Rider
1940 - 1944 Fred H. Payne Unknown Milo Coulter
1934 - 1940 Frank J. Burns 1862 - 1864 R. G. Campbell
1932 - 1934 John K. Tate 1858 - 1862 William Snow
1928 - 1932 Charley C. Taylor Unknown James C. Connor
1924 - 1928 Tom O. Selman 1848 - 1856 James C. Connor
1922 - 1924 Horace Humphreys Unknown James Francis
1920 - 1922 Nick P. Bush 1842 - 1844 James C. Francis
1918 - 1920 Robert P. Bass 1838 - 1842 Alfred Rogers
1914 - 1918 Nick P. Bush Unknown James Reddy
1908 - 1914 Sam A. Conner Unknown John Johnson
1904 - 1908 J. F. Shipp Unknown Matthew Anderson
1902 - 1904 W. P. Hays 1822 - 1824 Terrill Riddle
1819 - 1822 Charles Gamble

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