Clarence Shelton

Interviewed by: Caitlin Cooper
Date of Interview: Fall 2014
Interview Location: Caitlin Cooper's home

Asher McGlothlin reports:

"I am interviewing my grandpa, Clarence Shelton, about his time when he was sheriff. I chose to interview him because I find it quite interesting that he was a sheriff back in the day and the stories he has told me persuaded me to choose this topic about him. I think it is interesting to find out about his experiences as a sheriff."

Question: What was your first and last year of being sheriff?

Shelton: 1957-1976 He did not serve for one four year term.

Question: How many years were you sheriff?

Shelton: 16 years

Question: How old were you when you became sheriff?

Shelton: I was 25 years old.

Question: In what county were you sheriff?

Shelton: McDowell County West Virginia.

Question: Did you get any special nominations or awards?

Shelton: I was Officer of the Year in 1970 and I was also mentioned in a book called Blood Brothers.

Question: Do you think being a sheriff back then is different than today?

Shelton: Yes, because there are more drugs and violence now. Back then all you had to worry about was drunks.

Question: Were you treated differently since you was the sheriff?

Shelton: No I was not treated differently.

Question: Do you think being sheriff affected your family and how?

Shelton: Yes, because I did not get to spend as much time as I wanted to with them.

Question: Did your wife like you being sheriff?

Shelton: No, because I was not home enough and she worried about me because I was out all hours of the night.

Question: Did your children think you were special since you were the sheriff?

Shelton: Yes, they thought I was “hot snot”.

Question: Did you ever have to arrest a family member?

Shelton: Yes, my first wife’s step father.

Question: Did any of your children go into law enforcement?

Shelton: My youngest son Dennis is now a Sgt. at Keen Mountain Correctional Center.

Question: Who was the most famous person you arrested?

Shelton: The beer commissioner.

Question: What was your most memorable case?

Shelton: When I arrested four men who fled from Georgia who killed a family of seven down there.

Question: What was your most dangerous case?

Shelton: Going into a beer joint one night and a man shot the door hinges off right in front of me. Man I thought I was killed that day.

Question: Who did you arrest the most?

Shelton: Not anybody in particular, but I arrested mostly drunks and men who fought on Saturday nights.

Question: Did you save anybody during your career?

Shelton: Yes. One night there was this big storm with lightning and thunder. The lightning hit a power line and it fell on this car with three women inside. I cut up an inner tube and put it on my hands and feet and I went and pulled them out and kept them from burning up.

Question: Did you chase down any moonshiners?

Shelton: Yes, plenty of them.

Question: Did you ever have any high speed chases?

Shelton: Yes and my fastest one was when my son Freddy was with me. There were 2 motorcycles riding on the sidewalk in Bradshaw. When they saw me they took off and I chased them to Raysal where they wrecked. I picked them both up and put them in my car and took them to jail.

Question: Did you ever have a “hit” put out on you?

Shelton: I have had some say they were gonna kill me, but none of them tried to. They were too afraid of me.

Question: Did you ever have to shoot anybody?

Shelton: One person and that was Burl Laxton and he was the mayor of Bradshaw. Him and few other guys were drunk and they were trying to take my gun so I shot the Burl and that stopped the rest of them.

Question: Did anybody ever try to escape from your custody?

Shelton: Lots of them, I used to have to chase them down.

Question: Do you think you had a positive effect on anybody’s life that you arrested?

Shelton: Several people changed because they were afraid I was going to arrest them again.

Question: What did you learn or take away from being a sheriff?

Shelton: I know all kinds of different people and you can’t straighten up a crooked person.

Question: Do you still have leverage since you were sheriff?

Shelton: No, but everybody still knows me and they come up to me and say hey I remember when you arrested me and then we just strike up a conversation.

Question: Do you wish you would have furthered your career?

Shelton: No it was time to get out; it was enough because it was getting too dangerous.

Question: Would you recommend anybody to go into law enforcement?

Shelton: No it is too dangerous now and people would shoot you in a heart beat.