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1934 Riot, Part 5: Vigilantes deputized

Posted Monday, December 21, 2009, at 3:31 PM

Fifth of a 7-part series

This series goes into details of the December 1934 rioting in Shelbyville in which Bedford County Courthouse was burned after rape suspect E.K. Harris wasn't turned over to a mob. Information is taken from The Bedford County Times and national wire services of the time. Reader additions and comments are welcome.

FRIDAY, DEC. 21, 1934: Vigilantes deputized

Floyd "Pat" Lawes, 28, one of the men seriously injured in Wednesday's attack on National Guardsmen protecting the courthouse, dies at Bedford County Hospital.

Several National Guard squads drive out roads leading from Shelbyville to see if any crowds are gathering on the edge of town. Col. R.H. Bond of Jackson takes command of the troops.

Merchants and town officials ask the Guard to remain through Sunday.

Sheriff Tom Gant deputizes the men in the vigilante squad. No mention is made of why a squad patrolling within the city was deputized by the sheriff instead of the police chief.

NEXT: More fears arise

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

David I have a question. Would the Sheriff's jurisdiction not cover the city as well as the rest of the county? I was just wondering.

-- Posted by leeiii on Mon, Dec 21, 2009, at 4:18 PM

It's my understanding that generally today the city police will handle things within the city except for the courthouse itself. The county will, for example, check the courthouse grounds at night (though city police will respond as backup as well if anything actually happens.)

I've wondered why the city didn't call for backup from surrounding cities in 1934.

-- Posted by David Melson on Tue, Dec 22, 2009, at 8:56 AM

leeiii, Not David, but yes, the sheriff has jurisdiction over the entire county, including towns that reside within the county. He is the highest ranking law enforcement officer within the county. Not sure that a police chief, who was probably appointed rather than being elected, would have the authority to deputize, especially if there was a possibility that those deputies might go outside the corporate limits. This is just an opinion, as I make no claim to being a legal eagle.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Tue, Dec 22, 2009, at 8:58 AM

David and ilikeoldsongs, Thanks for your response. I do not know anything about the legal side of it. It just seemed to me that since city residents pay both city and county taxes that the Sheriff's office would also have authority in the city.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Dec 22, 2009, at 9:58 AM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.