Worthy of the Badge

Group portrait of Liberty County sheriff Jay Lemuel Forehand with his family.jpg

As the twentieth century progressed, so did the danger for sheriffs and their deputies.  On August 24, 1919, Charlie Davis shot and killed Liberty County Sheriff Jay Lemuel Forehand while he was attempting to arrest Davis for slashing a man’s throat and assaulting the victim’s wife.  Sheriff Forehand approached Davis with his gun across his shoulder, indicating he did not intend to use it.  Davis responded by firing a single barrel shotgun at Forehand’s chest, then fleeing the scene.  A posse of several hundred men tracked Davis for three days before capturing him.  Twenty-one days after the incident, they tried and hanged Davis for murder.  Forehand was neither the first nor the last sheriff to lose his life serving on the job.

Sheriff Bob Baker of Palm Beach County - Florida.jpg

No other Florida sheriff had quite as illustrious a career as Robert C. “Bob” Baker of Palm Beach County.  Despite losing his leg while on duty as a deputy, Baker relentlessly pursued and helped capture the notorious Ashley Gang.  Founder John Ashley, wanted for a dizzying list of crimes including bootlegging, bank robbery, piracy, and murder, sent Baker letters and a signature bullet to taunt the sheriff.  Because of his leg, Sheriff Baker was not present when a tip from an anonymous source finally allowed lawmen to ambush and capture the gang.  Officers shot down Ashley and his men before taking them into custody, reportedly in an attempt to escape.  With his new fame, Baker went on to become president of the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA), helping strengthen and modernize the organization.

Giuseppe Zangara in custody after his unsuccessful attempt on President Roosevelt's life.jpg

Occasionally, the sheriff participated in serving justice for a national audience.  On February 15, 1933, Giuseppe Zangara fired a pistol at Franklin D. Roosevelt after the president-elect addressed a large crowd of supporters in Miami.  The would-be assassin missed, fatally wounding the nearby mayor of Chicago.  Local lawmen quickly took him into custody.  Thirty-two days later, strapped to the electric chair, an unfazed Zangara told Sheriff Hardie to “Push da button!”

Honor in Power
Worthy of the Badge