Former sheriff remembered as bold, kind

November 14, 2012


Edwin Tomlinson, who recorded Hood County’s longest stint as sheriff with almost three terms, 1981-1992, died Saturday in Granbury at age 84.

Tomlinson was a lifelong resident of Hood County, with the exception of four years with the Navy during the Korean War.

Ronnie Tomlinson, whose dad, Murlin, was Edwin’s brother, said his uncle died peacefully at The Arbor House, where he had been living with his wife, Reba.

Captain Jerry East, who began his law enforcement career when Tomlinson hired him as a deputy in 1989, said he was a sheriff who was well-respected and well-loved.

“I admired him. It’s a big loss,” East said. “I had known him my whole life. I’m just kind of numb. I think a lot of people have a lot of fond memories of Edwin Tomlinson, not only as sheriff but also as a rancher.

“He was a warm person, very caring. He was genuinely interested in people’s well-being. He had an open-door policy. When you saw him, you knew how he was going to be.”

Current Sheriff Roger Deeds, who was a firefighter and EMT when Tomlinson was in office, said he got to know him fairly well after Tomlinson retired while still in office, with about nine months remaining in his third term. Former Sheriff’s Office Deputy DeWayne Hart, now a constable, served out the remainder of Tomlinson’s final term, as interim sheriff.

“I always thought he was a great guy and a good sheriff,” Deeds said. “Their priorities were a lot like mine, as far as going after drugs and drug labs. A lot of his ways of thinking and fighting crime were similar to mine, so I had a lot of respect for him.”

East noted that Tomlinson could be bold “when he needed to be.”

That was evident in 1990 when Tomlinson ordered his deputies to begin patrolling with submachine guns because of threats made on law enforcement at that time. That heavy firepower eventually became commonplace for many sheriff departments in other areas, East noted.

“Now, it’s accepted,” East said. “He was really early in the game, making sure his deputies had the firepower that they needed.”

Tomlinson also had a soothing personality that helped him in dealing with standoff situations.

“It was a calm demeanor,” East said. “It had more of a calming effect.”

East, also known for excellent work in tense conditions, said, “I’ve used that same technique a lot. We had situations where people were giving deputies trouble, and he’d show up and they’d just get in the (sheriff’s) car.”

East remembered a rowdy incident in which a suspect said it would 50 deputies to bring him in. Tomlinson spoke to him and said it was only going to take “one old man.” East said the suspect promptly surrendered.

A Facebook entry posted by Tomlinson’s grandson Cody Hiler along with granddaughter, Heather Graham Armstrong, said:

“We lost Papaw Saturday morning. Very glad that I got to spend some time with him over the past few months. I’ll always cherish riding around in his sheriff car, hanging out at the jail and being on the tractor with him, and when he would take time out of a busy summer day to take his grandkids to lunch.

“No matter if it meant facing a loaded gun or a 2,000 pound Brahma bull, he was a strong, fearless, hard-working and fair man who always kept us safe. Whether you knew him as Papaw, Pappy, Uncle Ed, Edwin or ‘Sheriff,’ he loved us and he was always happy to make a new friend. As his only grandson I hope that he was as proud of me as I am of him.”

For Tomlinson’s 2 p.m. funeral today at First Baptist Church of Granbury, the six pallbearers who were chosen all began their law enforcement careers under Tomlinson – East, Hart, Lieutenant Kathy Jividen and Investigators Lynn McDonald and Gay Johnson from the current Sheriff’s Office, plus Sergeant Jesse Davis, a former deputy now with the Granbury Police Department.

Tomlinson served as deputy sheriff under lifelong friend, Sheriff Henry Robertson, before being elected. Robertson was sheriff from 1972-1980.

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