In 1926, newspaper wanted clear lines between state's attorney and sheriff

In July 1926, dissatisfaction between the Carroll County state's attorney and the Carroll County sheriff leaped from whispers in the local lunchrooms to the pages of a local newspaper.

The front page of the July 16, 1926, edition of the American Sentinel newspaper included a story — "Why the Listlessness of the Sheriffs of Carroll County?" — about whether the role of the sheriff had been diminished by the then-state's attorney, according to research on the topic for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Jay Graybeal.

"Editor Joseph D. Brooks felt that the State's Attorney had assumed too many of the Sheriff's duties to the detriment of local law and order," Graybeal wrote.

Interestingly enough, Brooks only mentions Carroll County State's Attorney Theodore F. Brown. No mention is made of the sheriff at the time, William Phillips, who served from 1923 to 1926.

Also of interest, according to folklore, is that Brown worked well with sheriffs before Phillips.

An article in the out-of-print Democratic Advocate on Feb. 2, 1923, observed, "The State's Attorney Brown and Sheriff E. Edward Martin (in office 1921-1923,) tell of an interesting experience they had Saturday afternoon... they found … in a bedroom on the first floor … about 100 gallons of mash, and over the barrels, hanging on the wall, an artistically framed motto: 'Glory to God in the Highest and on, Earth Peace, Good Will Toward Men.' "

However, in 1926, according to Brooks, "Unfortunately, too many citizens have failed, and still fail, to realize the importance of the office of sheriff … many citizens cannot understand the apparent listlessness which for a number of years has pervaded the sheriff's office of Carroll county…

"Many years ago Carroll county was known to criminals all over the state as an 'open door to the penitentiary. … David N. Henning, the then state's attorney … made the sheriffs do their duty by collecting the necessary evidence and producing the witnesses…

"The advent of Mr. (Theodore) Brown as state's attorney seems to have wrought a great change in the office of sheriff of Carroll county. … What we have said about Mr. Brown does not reflect upon him as state's attorney. He has been a good officer, but … we feel certain he has spoiled … pretty good sheriffs by allowing or forcing them to loaf on their jobs...

"The state's attorney is not a sheriff and a sheriff is not a state's attorney, and when one or the other presumes to act outside of his duties by assuming the duties of the other there will be listlessness by one or the other.

"It is to be hoped that the sheriff and state's attorney to be elected this November will recover the dignity to which they are entitled, but which, apparently, has been lost."

When he is not trying to read between the lines in local newspaper articles, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at

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