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Dayhoff: Remembering a Carroll County sheriff who was one of a kind

Former Sheriff Monk Campbell was part of a group that would get together every Sunday in Westminster after church and talk over the news of the day. In this Aug. 30, 1998 photo, from left, Campbell, Roy Fringer, Caroline Babylon in background, Dave Babylon and Willie “Judge” Rush.
Former Sheriff Monk Campbell was part of a group that would get together every Sunday in Westminster after church and talk over the news of the day. In this Aug. 30, 1998 photo, from left, Campbell, Roy Fringer, Caroline Babylon in background, Dave Babylon and Willie “Judge” Rush.(Kevin Dayhoff photo)

Retired Carroll County Sheriff H. LeRoy “Monk” Campbell, of Westminster, died Jan. 3, 2007 at 91. Campbell served as the elected sheriff of Carroll County from 1962-1982.

Campbell was a member of the Westminster United Methodist Church and active in the Republican Party in the days when the county was dominated by the Democratic Party in Carroll County. He was part of an interdenominational bipartisan group of individuals that would get together for “Sunday School and communion” every Sunday after church at the home of my father-in-law — former Westminster Council President David S. Babylon Jr., in Westminster, and talk (read: disagree amicably) over the news of the week.

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When Campbell was first elected in 1962, the population of Carroll County was 53,000. That was an increase of 8,000 over the 1950 census and there was great concern that the county was growing too fast as a result of the opening of Md. 140 (the “new highway”) just 8 years earlier on July 1, 1954.

In November 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Campbell, a Western Maryland College graduate and former Washington Redskins professional football player, was elected the 54th sheriff of Carroll County. Campbell got 7,697 votes on Nov. 6, 1962 defeating his opponent, Glenn B. Markle (D), who received 5,599 votes.

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In 1962, he took over the sheriff’s office from Charles C. Conaway (R,) who had not run for re-election. When Campbell retired in 1982, Grover N. Sensabaugh (D) took over, having won the election that year over his opponent, John Ed Grove (R.) Grove and I played in the Wm. F. Myers and Sons Band together.

In a difficult re-election campaign in 1978 against Dean E. Leppo, (D), a sheriff’s deputy since 1974, the main issues in the contest were “the lengthy hours” the deputies had to work, the role of the Maryland State Police resident trooper program and a perceived lack of funding from the commissioners.

When Campbell took office in 1962 he was paid $3,000 a year with a $2,100 stipend a year to operate a county car. The sheriff was on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Then, as now, one of the duties of the sheriff was to run the jail.

When he took office, he was helped by one full-time and one part-time “jailer.” Campbell hired the first sheriff’s deputy, Fred Shank, in 1965 for “$100 per week,” according to a published account in 2000.

In those days, the sheriff served court papers, guarded the courthouse and repossessed farm equipment and automobiles. Folklore has it that his wife, Mildred, would drive him out to farms and he would drive the tractors back to town.

Just six years earlier, between 1954 and 1956, two sheriffs had died in office. Sheriff Charles W. Conaway had been elected in Nov. 1954. He died in office on Sept. 1, 1955. His replacement, William M. Buckingham died June 31, 1956.

In later years, Campbell would joke that his Democratic friends had urged him to run for years. He would remark to me that “they must have wanted to get rid of me,” (hoping he would die in office also).

Do not tell current Sheriff Jim DeWees’ wife — Clerk of the Court Heather DeWees — but in 1962, the sheriff and his family lived in the basement and the sheriff’s wife cooked meals for the prisoners and cleaned the jail. She was paid $200 a month for her services. (That had been a recent development. Up until Jan. 1, 1961, the sheriff’s wife’s services were unpaid.)

According to a 2000 Carroll Sun article, “Deer killed on roads and highways were brought to the jail…” In later years, Campbell fondly recalled his wife raising chickens and tending a large vegetable garden, maintained where the detention center is today, in order to have eggs, chicken, and vegetables to serve the prisoners.

One Sunday many years ago, Campbell retold a story reported in a 2000 newspaper article by Mike Farabaugh; late one night at the jail, a prisoner incarcerated for being drunk had to be taken to Springfield, the “state prison hospital facility in Sykesville.” To do that, Campbell got several of the other prisoners to help him. He first took the prisoner to a local doctor, who instructed him to take the prisoner to the hospital.

Campbell told the story that he "had the car and the other prisoners, so I handed the keys to one of them and said, “Here, take these to my wife and tell her to lock you up.’ And that is exactly what they did.”

When the jail was inspected by the state in 1961, there were a total of six prisoners and it was suggested the use of jail be discontinued. In 1968, the jail was condemned. Campbell oversaw the construction of the next door Carroll County Detention Center in 1971.

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After Campbell was finally laid to rest in Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Finksburg folks suggested that he probably re-arranged the cemetery and kept St. Peter busy in heaven with re-organization plans.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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