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The Sheriffs of Hamilton County
Portrait of Sheriff Nick Bush
1914 - 1918/1920 - 1922

To Sheriff Nick P. Bush, law and order was not simply a job but a way of life. The son of former Hamilton County Sheriff Samuel S. Bush, he served under his father in 1896 as jailer, office deputy, and criminal officer. For years Nick Bush was deputy sheriff of Hamilton County and a member the city detective department for eight years before being elected as sheriff 1914. Bush served as sheriff for a total of six years, completing a twenty-year career in law enforcement and retiring undefeated in 1922.

Highly respected throughout the southeastern United States, The Chattanooga Times called Bush an officer who “never took a drink, uttered an oath, or lost his equanimity” upon being elected to office in 1914.

As a detective in Hamilton County, Bush was sent to Atlanta, Georgia to serve for a week as an outside detective. While there, he toured Atlanta’s jail to acquaint himself with area criminals. Three years later a man was arrested in downtown Chattanooga for possession of dynamite and other explosives. The suspect refused to identify himself to arresting officers. When the suspect was taken to the police station for further questioning, Detective Bush passed through the office, stopped in mid-stride and took a look at the suspect under question. In a matter-of-fact tone Bush said, “Hello Jones. They got you, did they?”

Though encountering Jones for only a few minutes in the Atlanta jail some three years earlier, Bush had recognized the escaped prisoner (a convicted safe-blower) and had given a proper identification to arresting officers. Jones was then sent to Atlanta to finish his sentence.

Sheriff Bush’s last term of office was quite successful. Records report that approximately 5,000 arrests were made between 1920 and 1922. During that period, 61 arrests were made on murder and manslaughter charges.

Bush’s office also made over 500 arrests on charges of selling storing, transporting, and manufacturing liquor. 1051 gallons of corn whiskey were confiscated and destroyed with 65 stills being captured.

Bush continued his career in law enforcement after his retirement as sheriff. He became chief deputy in 1924, a position he held until his death.

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