‘Stars Over Tennessee’ Shines a Light on Tennessee Sheriffs
, 2022-09-13 03:00:00,
Hear the word “sheriff” and everyone has a picture pop into their head. It may be of the Sheriff of Nottingham, England from the days of Robin Hood. Perhaps it is Bat Masterson, considered the best of the breed in the Wild West. Or Maybe Andy Taylor of Mayberry from the TV show. But what is the vision of a sheriff in Tennessee? Eleven years ago, Ronnie Erwin and his now deceased wife, Lynn, began to explore that question by researching the almost 4,200 sheriffs who have served the State of Tennessee since 1776 in their coffee table book, Stars Over Tennessee.
The term “sheriff” is derived from the ninth century Anglo-Saxon term “Shire-Reeve” or “Chief of the County”. According to sheriffs.org, “In early England the land was divided into geographic areas between a few individual kings – these geographic areas were called shires. Within each shire there was an individual called a reeve, which meant guardian.” Those who held this job collected taxes and enforced the king’s laws.
In 1641, the first sheriff’s office was established in America in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. However, these lawmen are most famously known from the Old West. In the wild and lawless American Old West, sheriffs were still collecting taxes and keeping the predatory from inflicting injury upon the citizens under their care.
Tennessee’s first sheriff took office in 1772, and the position was adopted into the state’s constitution in 1796, as the territory became a state…
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