Van Zandt County Sheriffs

BENTON, Peter S. 1848 - 1849
ANDERSON, B. W. 1850 - 1851
PARKER, C. P. 1851 - 1851
SOESBY, L. J.  1851-1852 (Appointed)
BEESON, B. S. 1852 - 1853
PARKER, R. W.  1853 - 1854 (Appointed)
BATES, James 1854 - 1855
TANKERSLEY, R. C. 1855 - 1856 (Appointed)
GRAHAM, Calvin B. 1856 - 1860
DOYL, Robert 1860 - 1861
HENDERSON, J. R. C. (Sheriff Pro-Tem) 1861 - 1861
O'QUINN, J. R.  1861 - 1862
BURNS, J. M. (Sheriff Pro-Tem) 1861 - 1861
YOUNGBLOOD, James Marion 1962 - 1864
CLARK, James A. 1864 - 1865
MANNING, Henry C. 1865 - 1866 (Appointed)
WOOD, J. White 1866 - 1867
MOORE, Ed Perry  1867 (appointed failed to qualify)
MEEKS, Joseph S. 1868 - 1869 (Appointed by Gen. Hancock's Spec. Order #44)
SHUBERT, Louis H. 1869 - 1869 (Appointed by Gen. Canby's Spec. Order #48
BUCHANAN, William T.  1869 - 1869 (Appointed by Gen. J.J. Reynold's Spec. Order #162)
CARTER, S. Y. 1869 - 1870 (Appointed by Gen. J.J. Reynold's Spec. Order #215)
TOWLES, Thomas J.  1869 - 1871 (Elected but failed to qualify. Appointed by Gen. J.J. Reynolds' Spec. Order #4)
RILEY, D. L. 1871 - 1872
PARKER, James E. 1872 - 1876
WELLS, Richard 1876 - 1878
HAMM, J. T. 1878 - 1882
CLOWERS, J. W. 1882 - 1882 (Appointed)
THOMPSON, W. D. 1882 - 1884
BRAZENTON, W. L. 1884 - 1885 (Died in office)
MEREDITH, A. W. 1885 - 1886 (Appointed)
CLARK, Fred 1886
BLACKWELL, H. F. 1887 - 1894
VICKERY, T. B. 1894 - 1896
GRAHAM, C. B. 1896 - 1898
RUSK, Cicero 1898 - 1902
HOWARD. John W. 1902 - 1904
GENTRY, J. W. 1907 - 1910
KELLIS, John R. 1910 - 1916
CARPENTER, J. A. 1916 - 1920
OSBORN, Ollie 1920 - 1925
STAGNER, George T. 1924 - 1927
OSBORN, Ollie  1926 - 1928
NIXON, W. P. 1928 - 1933
BURNETT, Ira 1932 - 1934
BURNETT, Ethel (Mrs. Ira) 1934 - 1935 (Appointed)
ALLRED, Ike 1935 - 1937
WILSON, James L. 1937 - 1939
JOHNSON, Cecil D. "Cotton" 1938 - 1943
GALLAWAY, Russell 1942 - 1943 (drafted into U.S. Army)
GALLAWAY, Mrs. Russell 1943 - 1944 fulfilled husband's term.
ELLIOT, Clyde 1944 - 1953
SIDES, James Forrest 1952 - 1957
BURNETT, J. W. (Jew) 1957 - 1965
WARD, B. W. 1965 - 1977
SHAFER, William Travis 1977 - 1989
JORDAN, John Patrick (Pat) 1989 - 1996
PRICE, Truman 1996 - 1996
DEAN, Billy 1996 - 1996
COCKERHAM, Jeryl 1996 - 1997 (Resigned)
DEAN, Billy 1997 - 1999 (Appointed - Died in Office)
JACKSON, Kathy  1999 - Nov. 2000 (Appointed)
BURNETT, J. P. (Pat) Nov. 2000 - Present

Data taken from "Texas County Sheriffs" by Sammy Tise and from the Van Zandt County Clerk.

Tyler Telegraph October 15, 2001

Line of Duty:: William Rutherford Hunter, a Van Zandt County Deputy Sheriff, was shot and killed in 1892. (Courtesy Photo)

Van Zandt County Sheriff Pat Burnett was surprised by the phone call he received recently concerning a deputy who had been shot in Van Zandt County. (Oct. 16, 2001)

Van Zandt County Sheriff Pat Burnett was surprised by the phone call he received recently concerning a deputy who had been shot in Van Zandt County.

The caller was Terry Baker, a retired assistant chief for the Dallas County Sheriff's Department.

Baker, as it turns out, was not calling Burnett to get information on a recent death of a deputy, but to tell the sheriff he had found information concerning a Van Zandt County Deputy killed more than 100 years ago.

"Come to find out, this is the only sheriff's deputy to ever be killed in the line of duty in Van Zandt County," Burnett said. "Apparently, Deputy William Hunter was shot on the streets of Wills Point in 1892."

Baker has formed a one-man not-for-profit organization, Finding the Forgotten Texas Peace Officers and has been combing the state in search of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.

In the six years since he retired from Dallas County, Baker has located more than 70 previously unrecognized peace officers killed while performing their duty.

Records of these officers are sometimes lost or destroyed accidentally, Baker said. By researching local newspapers, death and election records and other archives he said he has come up with many untold stories.

Wills Point Shootout

The following account was taken from court documents and a letter from Deputy William Rutherford Hunter's daughter Alma Hunter Gibson. Hunter was a Van Zandt County Sheriff's Deputy living and serving in Wills Point.

Deputy Hunter, who was about 35 years old, also worked as a salesman for Thompson and McKinney merchants in Wills Point.

The difficulty started when Hunter arrested John Wills early in the morning of Dec. 26, 1892. Accounts show that Wills, a descendant of the man Wills Point was named for, was going about the streets "halloaing and whooping" and shouting "whoop-ee! whoop-ee! Hurrah for Christmas!"

Hunter found Wills in John Spires' Saloon where Hunter recruited several men to assist with subduing Wills.

Several men testified that Wills fought Hunter trying to avoid arrest, but Wills was finally taken to the calaboose where he was charged with disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. J.V. Kilgore, Justice of the Peace in Wills Point, set Wills' bonds at $150 for each charge.

Wills' brother Henry heard of the arrest and vowed to "whip (Hunter) if he showed up before night."

Henry Wills ran a meat market on North Commerce down the street from the store where Hunter worked. Hunter had to pass Henry's market on his way home.

One witness to the shooting, J.H. Coker, testified Willie Wills, Henry Wills, and he were standing in front of the meat market when Hunter walked by.

Coker, who was also called the "hot temala man" because he sold temales from a lunch wagon, saw Hunter coming down the middle of the street. Wills Point apparently used an early spelling of tamale.

Henry Wills called out to Hunter.

"Hello Will (Hunter)," Henry said.

"Howdy, Henry," Hunter replied, according to Coker's testimony.

Coker told the court the pair then argued over the arrest of Henry Wills' brother.

Henry took off his apron, threw it into the meat market and started toward Hunter.

"The deceased (Hunter) quickly drew his pistol, from his pocket, which went off and (the bullet) went through the roof of the meat market gallery," Coker said.

Henry Wills testified he had no weapons and intended to fight Hunter with his fists.

"I told him I had nothing," Wills told the court. "I repeated this a time or two.

He shot at me twice. I watched his hand and as he would be in the act of firing I would dodge my head."

During the altercation, Henry's father came up and Hunter threatened to shoot him if he interfered.

"The deceased then threw his pistol on my father and demanded him to stop or he would shoot him," Henry said. "I then stepped into the market, and just after I got inside, I received a wound in the thigh."

Henry Wills reached over the counter, retrieved his gun and returned fire.

"I shot three times at the deceased," Henry said.

Hunter's daughter, who was 6 years old at the time of the shooting, recalled that afternoon in a letter she wrote about the event.

"I well remember that afternoon when he was brought home to us," she said. "My mother was sitting in a little low rocking chair with the baby on her lap, when her brother, William McCustin Dawson, who had worked for the Easterwood Dry Goods Company for years, came in."

Men carrying the stretcher bearing her father came to the house.

Her father lived two more days before succumbing to his wound.

She said Hunter showed her where the bullet entered his body "low on the side, going through his liver and coming through or lodging in his back."

"Everything humanly possible was done for him but no earthly thing could help...." she wrote. "...this was in the days before the miraculous operations and drugs and there was no hope.

Thus he gave his life in the performance of his duty."

Henry Wills was later acquitted of the shooting which was judged self defense.

Hunter will be honored on a national memorial for fallen peace officers as well as a state memorial.

(The above article appeared in the October 15, 2001 Tyler Telegraph and was written by Gary Lynch. Gary Lynch covers Henderson and Van Zandt counties. He can be reached at 903.596.6266. e-mail:

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