The Sheriffs of Columbus County

The Sheriffs

of Columbus County

 1809-1846 Joshua Wil­liamson (removed from office for failure to pay collected taxes). In 1846 Williamson took tax books and went to Florida. Collec­tion of what he owed in tax collections finally settled about 1850. Williamson was elected annually by ruling Justices of the Peace.

Aug. 1846-1862 Lewis Williamson (Joshua’s son) elected annually until his bond refused on Aug. 7, 1862, and ruling Justices of Peace appointed John W. Gore.

Aug. 1862-1864 John W. Gore

Aug. 1864-July 1865 Van Valentine Richardson

July 1865 John Wil­liam Gore, elected by 10-7 over Van Valentine Rich­ardson in vote of Justices of Peace when county government reorganized. (Gore was first man to be­come sheriff a second time)

Nov. 1865-1873 Van Valentine Richardson, first sheriff elected by county citizens. (Second man to be­come sheriff second time).

1873-1875 William Quincy Maultsby – Closest race for sheriff in county history. Won by 2 votes – Maultsby had 718 votes in 1872 to 716 for John C. Powell and 257 for Burrell Smith. In 1875 Maultsby relieved of tax collecting duties for failure to pay in amount collected – Meet­ing with commissioners resolved amount to be paid, without penalty.

1875 – 1879 Kenneth Haynes defeated first black candidate J.W. Spaulding 1,332 to 711. W.Q. Maultsby, the incumbent, drew just 48 votes. (Haynes removed as tax collector for failure to pay collected taxes; Neill McPhaul, future sheriff, appointed tax collector summer 1875, and D.P. High appointed Aug. 7, 1878. Haynes finished term as sheriff)

1879 – 1882 Archibald McCallum (died in office after being re-elected for second term in 1882 – Died between Dec. 1882 and Jan. 1,1883, because Van Valen­tine Richardson appointed by commissioners Jan. 1, 1883 to fill vacant office. (Tombstone for McCal­lum says death was June 12, 1889; however entry in Commissioner Minutes from Feb. 5, 1883 meeting shows Neill Phaul, admin­istrator of McCallum’s estate and sheriff himself in 1887, appeared before the board and presented bills to be paid by the county to McCallum’s estate).

Jan. 1, 1883-Dec. 24, 1885 Van Valentine Rich­ardson (third time). Rich­ardson resigned Dec. 24, 1885 to become Federal Marshal (Oct. 1886 – County commissioners rented of­fice to Richardson in court­house for marshal duties)

Jan. 4, 1886-1887 Al­bert Fentress Toon, Rich­ardson’s brother-in-law, appointed to fill unexpired term

1887 -1895 Neill McPhaul

1895-1899 Matthew J. Ward

1899-1907 John G. Butler

1907-1913 Alfred Smith “A.S.” Richardson (son of Van Valentine Rich­ardson), paid $125 a month in 1909     1913-1916 – John Thom­as Best (appointed county’s first Tax Collector in Jan. 1909 – “experiment” lasted until October 1912 when county commissioners’ tax books delivered to sheriff). 1915 records show salary at $200 a month (died at age 75 in Beaumont, Texas, on March 26, 1951, buried Oakdale Cemetery, Wilm­ington)

1916-1924 John O’Neal Ammons

1924-1926 Clyde M. Gore defeated Ammons in runoff (see footnote)

1926-1928 John O’Neal Ammons (third person to become sheriff second time)

1928-1936 John W. Hall (defeated Ammons in runoff in 1928)

1936-1950 Herman D. Stanley Stanley was elected to two-year term in 1936, and was first sheriff elected to a four-year term in 1938, winning easily in a three-man race. He was re-elected to two more four-year terms and served 14 years. Interestingly, Stan­ley won runoff with Ches­ter A. Farley on July 4, 1936 by more than 500 votes. In the 1936 Democrat primary, Farley was first with 1,763 votes, followed by Stanley with 1,625 votes, and two former sheriffs – John O. Ammons 1,552 and Clyde W. Gore 1,320.

1950-1954 H. Hugh Nance

1954-1958 John R. Pridgen

1958-1974 Ben A. Duke

Dec. 2, 1974-Oct. 3, 1977 John Coleman, de­feated Ben Duke in 11-man race.

Oct. 5, 1977-1982 Clay­ton “Son” Norton, native of Scotland County. Nor­ton won commissioners’ vote, 4-1, after nearly three hours of trying to decide between Norton, a member of the rival County Police force, and Sheriff ’s Deputy Stuart Sasser. Norton was named at 8:15 p.m., and was sworn in at 8:20 p.m. in front of commissioners by District Court Judge Wilton Hunt.

Dec. 1982–April 28, 1988 William “Bill” Rhodes. Rhodes resigned because of improper con­duct, including notifying Whiteville and Riegelwood Country Clubs liquor raid was to take place.

April 28, 1988-Dec. 4, 1989 Coroner Henry S. Rowan appointed by county commissioners. Rowan resigned, commissioners appointed Harold L. Rains.

Dec. 4, 1989-Dec. 5, 1994 Harold L. Rains, American Indian and first minority race sheriff.

Dec. 5, 1994-Dec. 2, 2002 Jimmy L. Ferguson (won runoff from Rains)

Dec. 2, 2002-Jan. 7, 2014 Christopher L. Bat­ten (defeated Ferguson by six votes).  Batten resigned effective Jan. 7, 2014 to take a job with N.C. Dept. of Justice’s Training and Standards Division. Batten was the first Democrat in more than 100 years to face no op­position in re-election runs in 2006 and 2010.

Jan. 7, 2014 – Dec. 2, 2018Lewis L. Hatcher, 59, Batten’s chief deputy, wasappointed on Jan. 6, 2014 by county commissioners and sworn in the next morning. Hatcher joined Batten’s staff in 2006 as Lt. in charge of court­house security and bailiffs, and later moved to Lt. in Patrol Division. In August 2007 Hatcher became chief deputy when John Ingram resigned. Hatcher served the balance of Batten’s term that ended Dec. 1, 2014. He then went on to win reelection by a landslide in 2014.  Hatcher is the first black sheriff, and second minority sheriff.

Dec. 3, 2018 – presentS. Jody Greene defeated Hatcher by 34 votes.  Hatcher and the Democratic Party filed protest against Greene based on residency.  Greene lost in the District hearing but won in the State appeals hearing.  In a 4-1 decision, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted to overrule the call made by the Columbus County Board of Elections in the matter of Greene’s residency.

Two died in office

The county was without a sheriff for a week in 1882 after Archibald McCallum died in office in late December. Van Valentine Richardson was ap­pointed by the county commis­sioners to succeed McCallum.

John Coleman, elected in 1974, died while sheriff on Oct. 3, 1977. He was succeeded by Clayton “Son” Norton, appointed two days later and sworn in immediately.

 Longest terms

Joshua Williamson, the county’s first sheriff, served for 35 years, until he was forced to resign after moving to Flori­da and taking the tax collection records with him.

Lewis Williamson, Joshua’s son, served 16 years, from 1846 to 1862. He left office when his bond was refused for an unre­corded reason.

The longest term of a sher­iff elected by popular vote was that of Ben A. Duke, who served four full terms for a total of 16 years, and lost a bid in 1974 for a fifth term.

Herman D. Stanley served 14 years, followed by recent Sheriff Chris Batten’s 11 years.

 Tax problems

 At least four sheriffs had problems with paying the county the amount of taxes    they collected as the county’s official tax collector.

Joshua Williamson, the county’s first sheriff, moved to Florida in 1846 and took the tax books with him. The collection by the county for the amount he owed was settled about 1850.

The next sheriff with such problems was William Quincy Maultsby in 1875, the last year of his two-year term. A meeting with county commis­sioners resolved the problem, and there’s no report of the amount in question.

Kenneth Haynes, elected in 1875, over the first black can­didate, J.W. Spaulding, when Maultsby drew just 48 votes, also had his tax problems.

Neill McPhaul, who was to become sheriff in 1887, was ap­pointed by the commissioners to be the tax collector for three years, and then D.P. High was appointed in 1878, toward the end of McPhaul’s second term.

The last sheriff with tax problems was Clyde M. Gore who was the victim of a bank failure near Christmas 1925. Gore’s account with the Bank of Columbus amounted to $17,576.48.  There’s no record of how much the county managed to recover when the bank’s fi­nancial problems were finally resolved.

Sheriff Clyde M. Gore, who was also tax collector as all prior sheriffs, was held liable for $17,576.48 in his account “Clyde M. Gore, Sheriff ” in the Bank of Columbus when bank failed in December 1925. Coun­ty commissioners appointed Clyde’s brother, Lennox, as tax collector until courts cleared the problem.

 Sheriff more than once

Three men served as sher­iff at different times – Van Valentine Richardson, John William Gore and John O’Neal Ammons.

Gore was the first to sheriff for the second time. He was ap­pointed by the county’s ruling Justices of the Peace in 1862 to serve a two-year term, and re­placed by Richardson in 1864.

When the county reorga­nized its government in 1865, following the Confederates’ defeat in the War Between the States, Gore was selected by the Justices of the Peace over Richardson in a 10-7 vote.

Richardson, however, went back into office in 1865 after winning the county’s first  popular vote for sheriff, and he served until 1873, when he decided to not seek re-election.

Richardson is the only man to be sheriff three times. After Archibald McCallum died in office in late December 1883, Richardson was appointed to be sheriff again. He served until December 1885 when he resigned to become a federal marshal.

Ammons was elected in 1916 and served until 1924, when he lost in the second Democrat primary to Clyde M. Gore.

Ammons managed to win the position a second time in 1926, but lost a re-election bid in 1928 in another runoff.

 First four-year term

Herman D. Stanley was the first sheriff to be elected to a present-day four-year term. He won the job in 1936 when the term was two years, and was re-elected in 1938, the year the four-year term of office began.

The county’s ruling Justices of the Peace – who managed county government until the commissioner form of govern­ment was installed in 1865 – se­lected the sheriff for one-year terms until 1865.