•    History
      - About Sheriffs
      -
Past Sheriffs
      -
Historical Moments
      -
Pictorial







 

   

 Home | LSUS | Parish of Caddo | Contact Us

 

 THE BEGINNINGS OF THE MODERN
SHERIFF'S OFFICE

 

            In 1880 John Lake was sworn in as Caddo Parish sheriff.  Lake's administration marked the beginning of the modern Sheriff's Office in many ways.  Certainly it marked the office's  greatest period of growth since its establishment. 

            For the year ending on May 31, 1880, the Sheriff’s Office arrested 436 people and placed them in the sheriff’s jail. Some were released after paying a fine; others were sent to the penitentiary, delivered to other sheriffs or U.S. marshals, or released on bond. The cost of maintaining the prisoners that year: $2,696.80. On the last day of the year, there were 16 people in the jail.

            As sheriff, John Lake added a substantial number of deputies and effectively increased the law enforcement capabilities of the office. In 1889 the old courthouse was deemed unfit for habitation and in 1890 was demolished to make way for a new one.  Several times larger and with room for the Sheriff's Office, jail, parish offices, judge's chambers, clerks of court, and police jury, the new Romanesque Revival courthouse became symbolic of Sheriff Lake's progressive administration and Caddo Parish's growth and importance.

            The new courthouse was built at a cost of $86,000.  Although he had a significant hand in seeing the new courthouse built and although his role in designing the Sheriff's Office's quarters in the new building was also significant, Sheriff Lake himself never maintained an office in the new parish courthouse.  Just as the parish prepared to move into the new structure, Sheriff Lake stepped down from his post.

            Sheriff John Lake served in office  for 12 years.  During this time the length of the sheriff's term was extended from one to four years, which it remains today.  In the election of autumn, 1879, Sheriff Lake was elected from a field of seven candidates.  Four years later he was one of only two.  After that he was unopposed in his candidacy.

            Faced with deteriorating health, Sheriff Lake decided to resign from his duties as Caddo Parish sheriff in 1892. Lake's successor was John Smith Young, an attorney, real estate developer and board member of the streetcar company. On September 10, 1892, he was appointed Sheriff of Caddo Parish to fill the unexpired term of Sheriff Lake following Lake's resignation.  He was elected in a popular referendum a short time later and twice was re-elected to office, serving until 1900 when he returned to his private law practice.

            Sheriff Young's administration was particularly noted for its efficiency in tax collection and for setting the precedent of prompt settlement with the parish Police Jury every 30 days and with the State Auditor every 90.  This system set the legal standard throughout the state.  In 1893 Sheriff Young collected 99.5% of taxes due in the parish -- a record in the state at the time. There were 3,675 taxpayers at the time.

            Sheriff Young died on October 11, 1916, and was succeeded by his deputy Samuel J. Ward. During the Civil War he had fought with Missouri Confederate forces along with his close friends Peter Youree and Thomas Fletcher Bell, both Missouri natives who all ended up being paroled together in Shreveport at war's end.  Finding themselves without sufficient cash to return home, the three young men stayed, all going to work for merchants in order to earn enough money to live on and, they hoped, return to Missouri in time.  None of them did return home. However, at least not permanently, all three making Shreveport their new place of residence, marrying local girls and starting off in careers which would make civic leaders of the lot.

            As sheriff, Ward continued the Sheriff's Office's expansion begun by Sheriff Lake.  Ward was persuasive in promoting the need for a strong and efficient Sheriff's Office and urged the passage of several taxes to fund its growth. Not only did the duties and responsibilities of the Sheriff's Office expand, so did the size of its staff.  In 1902 Sheriff Ward had three deputies and one jailer.

            In 1905 the Parish Penal Farm was established on the former plantation of Lieutenant Gov. Caesar Carpentier Antoine, located on what is now West 70th Street between Shreveport and Greenwood. At the penal farm prisoners grew their own food and sold the surplus to raise money for the jail's operation.  This self-sufficient facility, popularly known as the "Pea Farm" (short for "penal" -- actual peas were not grown there in any abundance) was the first predecessor of today's Caddo Correctional Center.  The vine-covered ruins of the main building, completed in 1905, still stand but most of the acreage has been developed as an industrial area, today boasting such firms as General Motors and General Electric.

            In 1906, Sheriff Ward died suddenly on his 72nd birthday, and former Shreveport city auditor, Caddo Parish Tax Assessor and Caddo Parish Coroner James Patteson "Pat" Flournoy Sr. became sheriff, filling his unexpired term. Popularly elected in 1908, Flournoy altogether would serve as sheriff for a decade, retiring in 1916. 

            During his time in office Sheriff Flournoy oversaw a major expansion of his office, including the hiring of numerous new employees, deputies and support staff, and the expansion of the Caddo Parish Courthouse, which in 1907 added space for the Sheriff's Office nearly equal in volume to the entire courthouse space as originally built in 1891.  Also during his administration the parish constructed a new jail opposite the courthouse at the southeast corner of Milam and McNeill streets. Completed in 1906, the new jail served its purpose for just over two decades, closing when the present parish courthouse was opened in 1928.  It was demolished, ironically by prison labor, in the summer of 1930.

            In the early 1900s, the area north of Shreveport – namely Oil City and Trees City – was considered wild country. With the discovery of oil, lease hounds, speculators, promoters and oil field workers swarmed into the area. Overnight, saloons, gambling houses and brothels sprang up in the towns and communities, creating a serious problem for reputable oil operators.

            The closest law enforcement was 25 miles away, so in 1910, several oil operators appealed to Sheriff Flournoy for help. The sheriff sent for Pink Taylor, who had moved from the San Antonio Police Department, and explained the situation in northern Caddo Parish. Taylor accepted the appointment as deputy sheriff and was placed on the Trees Oil Company payroll to patrol the dives, protect the company employees, bring the payroll from Shreveport to Oil City by train, and enforce the law. By 1913, Flournoy moved Pink back to Shreveport where he lived on Crockett Street. 

            Also during Sheriff Flournoy's administration three of his sons, George A. Flournoy, Joseph Howell Flournoy and James Patteson Flournoy, Jr., all served as deputies under their father.  Joseph Howell Flournoy was later to serve as sheriff himself.

            In the election of 1915 Thomas Roland Hughes was elected sheriff, beginning a series of terms that would keep him in office for 24 years.  A native of Shreveport, Hughes was the first sheriff of Caddo to actually have been born in the parish.

            Early in Sheriff Hughes' administration the size of the Sheriff’s Office was vastly expanded in order to be able to proportionately serve the growing parish population.  Of course to accomplish this the budget of the Sheriff's Office had to be greatly increased as well, largely via tax increases voted upon by  the citizens of Caddo Parish.

            Another outstanding event in the history of the Sheriff's Office also occurred during the administration of Sheriff Hughes:  the tragic loss of the first Caddo deputy killed in the line of duty.  His name was Lawrence E. Readheimer, and he was 36. On May 6, 1919, an Oil City man identified in official records only as "Armstrong" shot and killed Readheimer as he was attempting to arrest him.  Armstrong himself was killed almost instantly as Readheimer's partner returned fire.  The incident occurred in Oil City, then a very rough oil boomtown and a trouble spot for crime in the parish during the early twentieth century.  The tragedy shook the Office, which had not lost an officer since the death of Sheriff Sterrett 79 years earlier.

            In the tenth year of Hughes' service as sheriff, work began on the present Caddo Parish Courthouse, which was completed two years later.  The new courthouse provided ample and then state of the art space for the growing Sheriff's Office and also provided a modern jail facility on its top floor.  This new jail replaced the old one across Milam Street, which was torn down two years after its abandonment.  Sheriff Hughes had an important role in advising the architects of the spatial needs of his office in the new building, which cost $1.5 million, for which the parish paid cash.  Although enlarged and partially remodeled several times beginning in 1968, the modern courthouse Sheriff Hughes helped to create and dedicate still remains the seat of government for Caddo Parish and the site of many offices within the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office.

            Sheriff Hughes’ period of service included the oil boom era and the gangster era during the Great Depression, two of the roughest periods in the modern history of this region.  Among the high-profile cases pursued by the Sheriff's Office during this epoch were the notorious "Butterfly Man" rape/murder case and the pursuit of the outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow both in 1934.  Indeed, it was Sheriff Hughes who, together with members of the Texas Rangers and Louisiana State Police, set up the Bienville Parish ambush that resulted in the deaths of Parker and Barrow.  Sheriff’s deputies and FBI agents had spotted the two only the day before in downtown Shreveport. 

            The "Butterfly Man" case was another that gained national attention.  Bunce Napier, also suspected of the Mary Phagan murder in Georgia for which Leo Frank was wrongly lynched in 1919, was convicted of the gruesome sexual assault and murder of a 15-year-old Shreveport girl.  Napier was known as the Butterfly Man because he made and sold paper and clothespin butterflies door to door and it was in this manner that he met the girl, whom he lured from her mother's home with the promise of employment.  When her mutilated body was found near Cross Lake a massive manhunt ensued.  As Napier was held on the top floor of the parish courthouse awaiting trial a large and angry mob attempted to storm the building, intent on revenge.  Quick thinking by Sheriff Hughes averted what could have been an even worse situation.  As employees were hustled out of the building sheriff's deputies threw tear gas bombs into its corridors and stairwells, successfully turning the vigilante mob back.  At the same time National Guard troops were called in at Sheriff Hughes' urging to surround the building and hold the mob at bay until deputies could disperse it.

            A few days later Napier was tried in the very courthouse in which he had been held, the very courthouse in which he had very nearly been lynched.  Convicted, he was sentenced to death by hanging, a sentence that was carried out on May 18, 1932.  Napier was the last prisoner hanged in Caddo Parish but not the last to be executed within the walls of the parish courthouse. In the mid-30s, the door to the gallows was sealed shut and condemned prisoners met their fate in the state’s traveling electric chair, positioned on the seventh floor of the courthouse.

            Also during the 1930s, Sheriff Hughes received a sort of dubious immortality when Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, the noted blues guitarist, penned a song about Shreveport entitled "Mr. Tom Hughes' Town."  Sheriff Hughes, who had captured and helped convict Leadbelly of murder, viewed the musician as merely a common killer and had strongly opposed early release for him from prison.  Sheriff Hughes concerns about Leadbelly were well founded, for every time he went free trouble followed.

                 

               

Parish of Caddo 2004©