Calhoun County Sheriff, Tom McKeown.jpg

The first two decades of the twentieth century saw a boom in Florida’s population.  Advances in communication, transportation, and weapons meant communities needed men (and eventually women) to enforce the law more than ever.  Local sheriffs struggled to fulfill their duties while also adopting more modern practices. Sheriff McKeown of Calhoun County is pictured clutching a club rather than the standard firearm.

Sheriff's Department with Confiscated Moonshine - Orlando, Florida.jpg

The passing of the Eighteenth Amendment in December 1917 instituted a national prohibition of alcoholic beverages.  It also meant sheriffs were busier than ever.  Along with gambling and public drunkenness, the illegal sale of liquor was among the most common crimes the officers encountered.  Local, small-scale operators were easier targets and more likely to be arrested than the large-scale “rum-runners” operating throughout the state.

Baker County Jail.jpg

The Baker County Jail housed not only prisoners but also the sheriff (or deputy) and his family.  Common to Florida’s county jails, a separate living space allowed the sheriffs to oversee the inmates directly.  Many times, the sheriff’s wife cooked for her family as well as for the men and women behind bars.

Last Hangings - Levy County, Florida.jpg

The sheriff’s most sobering duty was to oversee the execution of prisoners.  Sheriffs were often responsible for protecting accused persons from lynch mobs, only to oversee their execution after trial. Hangings often occurred inside the jail or on the property.  As of January 1, 1924, Florida legislators abolished death by hanging in favor of electrocution.

Sheriff Frank Stoutamire Reelection Card.jpg

As popularly elected officials, sheriffs depended on votes to continue serving the citizens of Florida.  Though his service as sheriff was not without critics, Frank Stoutamire served as Leon County Sheriff from 1923 to 1953.  For his experience and leadership, the Florida Sheriffs Association also elected Stoutamire to serve as president in 1945.