Friday, May 06, 2016
Caswell County Sheriff: Interesting Facts
1. However, which sheriff holds the record term of office?
2. Which sheriffs held the office more than once?
3. Which sheriff intended not to run for re-election but changed his mind due to personal circumstances?
4. Which sheriff lost his badge only to have it found years later?
5. Which sheriff is a grandson of Bartlett Yancey, Jr.?
6. Who was the first sheriff of Caswell County?
7. Who was Caswell County's first African-American Deputy Sheriff?
8. Who was Caswell County's first African-American Sheriff?
1. James Isaac Smith, Jr., is Caswell County's longest serving sheriff, holding office for some 24 years (1978-2002). In second place is John Henry Gunn, with two terms totaling 23 years.
2. Five held the office twice: David Shelton was the first. Then Jesse C. Griffith. Later, John Henry Gunn and John Yancey Gatewood traded the office back and forth for over 30 years (1920-1951). Note that Sheriff Jesse C. Griffith was arrested by Colonel George Kirk during the Kirk-Holden War.
3. It was John Henry Gunn who decided not to seek re-election but changed his mind when he learned that his pension was not available unless he reached retirement age while still in office. He ran again, and was re-elected, presumably with pension intact.
4. Lynn Banks Williamson lost his badge:
Sheriff Lynn Banks Williamson (1918-1987), Caswell County Sheriff 1953-1958. His badge was found by an operator of a Garrett Metal Detector, who returned the badge to the Williamson family (believed to have been lost by Sheriff Williamson while quail (bob white quail, of course) hunting).
5. The sheriff who is a grandson of Bartlett Yancey, Jr., is Thomas Pancoast Womack (1861-1916), who served 1891-1894. He lived in the Bartlett Yancey House and is buried in the Yancey Family Cemetery there. It was his widow that gave the land for the school in Yanceyville on the condition that it be named for Bartlett Yancey, Jr.
6. David Shelton was the first Caswell County Sheriff, first serving two years (1777-1779); and then another term 1780-1783.
"Oaths having been taken, the [June 1777] minutes tell us, 'Mr. John Lea was appointed to open Court which he did accordingly.' The justices who had recently qualified then ballotted for a clerk and William Moore was chosen. Soon afterwards David Shelton was appointed sheriff. The following day before the court both of these new county officers entered into bond. For Clerk Moore the securities for his bond in the amount of £1000 were David Shelton and Hugh Dobbins, Jr. For Sheriff Shelton they were William Lea, William Moore, Hugh Dobbins, Jr., Adam Saunders, John Lea, and Matthew Jouett, and his bond, a little later, was set at £5,000."
7. James Edward Gwynn (1919-1980) was appointed a Caswell County Deputy Sheriff in 1966 (by Sheriff Bobby Poteat), and is believed to be the first African-American to serve in that capacity.
8. In 2018, Tony Durden was elected Caswell County's first black Sheriff.