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The passing of a good man

August 03, 2011
The first time I met Richard Scott, he scared the daylights out of me. It was late one night and I had just gotten into my car after an English Town Council meeting, when I heard a knock. I rolled down the window and there he stood.

Indiana State Police escort former two-term Crawford County Sheriff Richard Scott’s body past the judicial complex in English Tuesday, July 26, as courthouse workers pay their respects. It was Scott’s wish to be taken past the courthouse and jail, which he was instrumental in helping get built, one final time. Photo by Wade Bell
"Are you Chris?" Scott asked in what I would learn was his traditional low growl.

"Yeah," I meekly answered, wondering not only who he was and what he wanted, but how he had walked up to my car without me noticing.

"Here," he said as he handed me an envelope.

Before I had a chance to say anything, Scott had turned and was on his way.

As it turned out, I didn't have anything to worry about. All he handed me was some information detailing his plans to run for sheriff. Still, I remember thinking, I don't know about this guy.

I quickly learned that Scott, who easily was elected sheriff that fall and handily given another term four years later, was a stand-up guy. I come across a lot of people in this job, and while many, especially politicians, talk the talk, few walk the walk. That wasn't the case with Scott.

You see, Richard Scott wasn't a politician. He was a law man, having served with the Indiana State Police from 1972 until he was sworn in as sheriff in January 1999. As his son, Shawn Scott, who was hired by the current sheriff and is now the department's chief deputy, said in last week's article about his father's passing, Scott sought the office of sheriff because he wanted to help his home county.

The department, for myriad reasons, had had negative publicity over the years, and Scott wanted to change it's reputation. He did, and now it's one of the most respected in the state.

He was instrumental in the construction of the 74-bed jail that is part of the judicial complex that opened in 2004. The facility replaced the half-century-old 14-bed jail that seemed straight out of Mayberry. On second thought, that is probably unfair to the Mayberry jail, because it never failed a state inspection and likely had fewer escapes.

Fortunately, those days are over, and Scott is a big reason why. That is not to say that the sheriffs who preceded him did not do a good job — many did. It's just that Scott was the sheriff that Crawford County needed at that particular time.

The current sheriff, Tim Wilkerson, who served as a deputy in Scott's administration, not only has done a good job of following in Scott's footsteps, but in building upon what he did in his eight years. Wilkerson, who a couple of years ago was named Indiana Sheriff of the Year, has been instrumental in the county bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars from housing state prisoners and has overseen a jail that, according to a recent state inspection, is about as good as they come.

Wilkerson's strong leadership certainly shouldn't be dismissed, but Scott also much deserves credit for laying the foundation, for setting a strong example. As Shawn Scott said in last week's article, "I learned so much from him, and so did everybody else."

A week or so before his passing, on July 23, Scott mentioned to his wife, Diana, that he would like to go by the judicial complex one last time. Then, almost immediately, he told her to forget about it as it would be too much trouble.

That was who Scott was: a kind and humble man who cared about his home county.

His wish was granted. On the way from the funeral to the cemetery, the procession stopped along S.R. 64 at English so Scott's body, led by a police escort, could be taken in front of the judicial complex, where it was greeted by courthouse employees gathered in front.

Richard Scott will be missed, but he will never be forgotten.

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