Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Masthead
Former Sheriffs

The Sheriffs of Hamilton County
Portrait of Sheriff William P. Hays

One of the most popular sheriffs of the early 1900’s was William Philip Hays, a native of Blount County, Tennessee. Born on October 11, 1863, be moved to Hamilton County when he was seventeen years old. He soon began working at the Chattanooga Saw Works where he remained for twenty-one years prior to running for office.

It was 1900 before Hays entered politics. He ran for and won the Republican ticket as a lower house representative of the Tennessee General Assembly. In 1902, he was elected as sheriff of Hamilton County. A Republican, Hays was well respected by both parties for his values and the dignity in which he conducted his office.

Family life was very important to Hays. He and his wife, Sallie Roberts, had nine sons, A photograph appeared in a 1904 issue of the Chattanooga Times which showed the Hays family. The adjoining article stated that the sheriff was a “fine specimen of physical manhood” at 40 years of age. The photograph displayed nine boys, ages six months to 20 years.

When elected sheriff, Hays appointed Sherman Beek as his chief deputy.

A Daily Times issue said that “no more suitable or fit man could have been chosen.” Clearly, the leaders and voters of Hamilton County were supportive of the Hays administration.

After his term as sheriff expired, Hays was twice elected as county court clerk. In 1914, he returned to private business until he was appointed chief field deputy for the Internal Revenue of Tennessee. Hays served with the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., where he lived during the Hoover administration until becoming ill. He was granted sick leave and returned to his home in Chattanooga, where he died November 27, 1936, at the age of 73.

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