More than a year has passed since I officially became a retired law enforcement officer, after leaving my position as the Sheriff of Pulaski County at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2016. I must admit there are numerous aspects of my old job that I miss, and one of the foremost is writing the weekly Sheriff’s View article.
Writing is one of my favorite hobbies and being able to compose an informative weekly article for the citizens of this area was an endeavor that I always looked forward to. Therefore, when Natalie Sanders from the Daily Guide offered the opportunity to join fellow retired Sheriff J.B. King in writing articles about past law enforcement incidents in Pulaski County, I was both honored and excited about the opportunity. I hope that you enjoy these true stories from the past, some dating back to the 1970’s, or beyond. With that being said, my first article will begin in the late 1930’s, at a small home on a hillside overlooking the Waynesville Courthouse square.
Eighty years ago the World War II conflict was just beginning, and City Marshal John “Doc” Hensley had the duty of maintaining the peace in Waynesville. According to verbal renditions from some of the county’s more seasoned citizens, Waynesville was primarily a calm place, but on occasion things could get a little rowdy on the Courthouse square. At times ruffians, empowered by a bottle of whiskey, would turn the once peaceful city streets into a brawling area. It was not totally uncommon that a fist-fight would escalate, and the echoing of gunfire could be heard throughout downtown.
Things were a lot different in the late 1930’s. When fights or gunshots would encompass downtown Waynesville, unlike modern times, the blaring of sirens and flashing of emergency lights accompanying the responding lawmen were void. Instead, numerous folklore stories exist about how Marshal Hensley would handle such situations. At times, the Marshal would monitor the town square just by onlooking from the front porch of his home, which was located on the south hillside overlooking the Waynesville Square. When trouble was expected, or on many weekend nights, Marshal Hensley would be joined by Sheriffs Cadwell or Pummill at his hillside perch to assure that peace was maintained in the County seat.
Old photographs of Marshal Hensley depict a man that was tall and stout in stature, accompanied by a facial disposition reflecting that he was capable of handling most situations that came his way. I am sure the same would apply to Sheriffs Cadwell and Pummill, due to one of the primary qualifications of being a lawman of yesteryears was to be able to physically handle those willing to defy the law, without any assistance. One tale that I enjoyed the most about these town-square disturbances is how the Marshal and Sheriff would sometimes disburse these unruly men without leaving Marshal Hensley’s front porch, just by merely firing a few gun-shots into the air. I am sure that few words would be exchanged between these lawmen as smiles would depict their cleaver and successful tactics.
Downtown Waynesville has undergone many changes since Marshal Hensley’s era, and is much more peaceful than some past times. There are exceptions, such as one summer day in 2013 when the lawns and sidewalks surrounding the County Courthouse were filled with those fleeing the confines of the building itself. A man not wishing to attend his court hearing called in a bomb-threat, warning that within minutes explosive devices inside the building would be detonated. Law enforcement officials from all local agencies were called to the scene to assist with the incident. I was included in this group, due to being the Pulaski County Sheriff. It did not take long for the building to be cleared and fortunately, no explosive devises were discovered. The suspect was arrested soon afterwards.
After things had quietened, I was standing on the front lawn of the Courthouse, at which time the Marshal’s old house caught my eye. I then could not help but wonder how my Great Grandfather Hensley would have handled such an incident!
Ronald “Ron” Long is a retired Sheriff from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, who engages in a part-time passion of writing books and articles. Ron’s most recent literary work, “Drugs Without the Sugar – America’s Addiction,” is a depiction of America’s drug epidemic told from an insider’s perspective by retired Sheriff Long, who was also a prior undercover narcotics detective. Two crime novels, “The Demise of a Texas King” and “The Devil’s Elbow Project” also accompany Ron’s writing achievements. Additional information about Ron’s books and methods of contact can be found on his web-site: www.AuthorRonLong.com. The above books may also be ordered through Amazon.com, and other on-line book retailers.
Editor's note: Tales from Law Enforcement is a feature that members of law enforcement are welcome to submit stories for print under that feature's heading as guest writers. If you are a member of law enforcement interested in submitting a story, please contact Daily Guide editor Natalie Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 573-336-3711.