The Metro Fayette Kiwanis Club recently heard a talk from the county’s longest serving sheriff, Randall Johnson. He relayed tales of his early career as a state revenuer and interesting tales of misdeeds by some Fayette Countians.
Eight years ago I wrote a lengthy article for this paper about all of the sheriffs in the county, starting back to the first one in 1822.
Some only served for a few months, while many managed to serve out their four-year terms.
The first one to serve for 20 years was the late Hugh Stinchcomb, who died in 2004. While he stood 6’2” tall, when you stood before him you would swear he was 6’6” tall.
His hands were huge and so was his smile. He never carried a gun and really, he never had to. His stature and demeanor let you know where you stood.
One time he told me I could come with him one midnight to watch a local still being busted up which sounded like a great newspaper article to me. I chickened out at the last minute, which I regret to this day. But I digress.
The longest serving sheriff was Randall Johnson, who served for 30 years, retiring in 2007.
When Randall came into office in 1977 our population was 28,000 and he had 14 full-time employees.
When he left office our population was 105,000 and there were 210 full-time employees.
Both of these men were native Fayette Countians and were able to accomplish the records they did by being genuine friends with everyone, but letting the bad guys know where they stood.
All together I came up with 36 men who served as a sheriff of Fayette County over the last 194 years.
Only two of them ended up with a criminal record during their term.
When I wrote the original article in 2007, I included everything I could find about each man, where he was born, who he married, etc. However, there was one sheriff who took bribes during his tenure, was caught, sentenced and served time in prison. All I put about him was his name and the first year he was elected. Yes, he still had relatives here and I wanted to be polite.
Well, evidently his story was not passed down through several generations to his offspring. One of them called me, blessing me out up one side and down the other for not giving more information about him like I did the others. I just apologized and let it go at that. I didn’t feel it was my place to tell him the whole story.
An interesting note: The first baby born in the incorporated town of Fayetteville, in 1823, was a girl whose father was sheriff a few years later. Her name was, get ready for this, Martha Ann Sophronia Alden Sara Huldey Permelia Hester Demaris Heflin. Honest.
Whether you’ve lived here all your life or just a few years, please be interested in our history. We published a very lengthy history in 1977, available for loan at the libraries, and a short one also available there or for purchase at the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce.
And sometime put your family genealogy in the Fayette County Historical Society. Who knows, maybe a hundred years from now, your descendants will come looking for you.