Elmer Litchfield

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Elmer Bounds Litchfield​

In office
1983​ – December 1, 2006​
Preceded by J. Al Amiss ​
Succeeded by Greg Donald Phares​

Born January 29, 1927​
Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi
Died August 2, 2008 (aged 81)​
Baton Rouge, Louisiana​
Resting place Greenoaks Memorial Park in Baton Rouge
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Margery Ann Evans Litchfield (died 2005) ​
Children Gary Stephen Litchfield

Marla L. Steepleton ​

Occupation Law-enforcement officer​

Served in United States Marine Corps

Religion Baptist

Elmer Bounds Litchfield (January 29, 1927 – August 2, 2008) was a long-serving sheriff of populous East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, known for his modernization of law-enforcement procedures.​[1]

A Republican in a historically, but decreasingly Democratic state, Litchfield was first elected as sheriff in 1983 and won large majorities in his five subsequent reelections. He retired because of health problems, effective December 1, 2006, with more than a year remaining in his sixth term.​

Background

A native of Meridian in eastern Mississippi, he graduated in 1950 from the University of Mississippi at Oxford. He served for nearly two years in the United States Marine Corps.​ He launched his career in law enforcement in 1951 with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was a special agent in Boston, Massachusetts, Chicago, Illinois, and eventually in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. He retired from the FBI in 1979 and then served as the executive director of the Louisiana State Commission on Law Enforcement until he was elected sheriff.​[1]

Career as sheriff

Colonel Greg Donald Phares (born May 14, 1956), the chief criminal deputy, declared Litchfield "one of the finest law enforcement officers I’ve ever worked for." Litchfield announced in 2004 that he would not run again and that he strongly supported Phares as his successor. The two met in 1973, when Phares was serving as a city police detective, and Litchfield was an FBI agent. They worked together on a bank robbery case.​[1]

Though Phares succeeded Litchfield, his time in office was limited to one year. Like Litchfield, Phares ran as a Republican; he was defeated in the November 17, 2007, general election by the Democrat Sidney J. "Sid" Gautreaux, III (born March 31, 1949), the then police chief in Baker, Louisiana. Gautreaux polled 40,624 (52 percent) to Phares' 38,224 (48 percent) in an election with a 31 percent turnout.[2] In the primary, Phares had led Gautreaux, 46-37 percent, but the combined overall Democratic vote was then 51 percent.[3] Gautreaux became sheriff immediately because the election was a combination general election and a special election for the seven months left in Litchfield's term.​

During his almost six terms in office, Litchfield required all deputies to reside in East Baton Rouge Parish and canceled all special deputy commissions. He improved the parish jail system to the point that it was called one of the “most constitutionally operated system in the state", according to The Baton Rouge Advocate.

Litchfield was not the first Republican to run for sheriff in East Baton Rouge Parish. In 1975, the then Republican mayor of Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish, Jack Breaux, ran for sheriff and nearly won a runoff slot against the Democratic incumbent J. Al Amiss, who served from 1972 until his death in office early in 1983.​ Where Breaux fell short, Litchfield made winning the office of sheriff seem easy. His reelection margins ranged from 82 percent in 1987 to 85 percent in 1991, 68 percent in 1995, 83 percent in 1999, and 78 percent in 2003. Such totals indicate that he obtained large majorities except from those who either objected to his tenure as sheriff or who vote straight Democratic tickets.​ Republican sheriffs have been rare in Louisiana: in many of the sixty-four parishes, no serious Republican candidate has ever fared strongly in a sheriff's election. In a few parishes, no Republican has even run for sheriff in modern times. The sheriff collects property taxes and enforces the law in parts of counties outside corporation limits. Many Louisiana voters consider the sheriff one of the most important public officials.​

At his retirement reception, Litchfield said that he would particularly miss his employees and the public "very much. People have been very kind."​ Former State Representative Donald Ray Kennard of Baton Rouge told Litchfield at the reception: "We love you and will miss you. We are proud of you for the contributions you have made to the country, the state, and the parish." Kennard presented Litchfield with a plaque from the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeffery Earl "Jeff" LeDuff said that he began his law enforcement career in 1983, when Litchfield won his first of six terms as sheriff. "I’ve always found the sheriff to be a great law enforcement mind", LeDuff told the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate.[1]

Mike Barnett, a retired colonel from the sheriff’s office with thirty-seven years of service, said that he met Litchfield while working with the FBI as a bank robbery investigator. “Litchfield is a kind, good man and is the best of bosses,” said Barnett, who was Litchfield’s assistant and chief criminal deputy. “He gave you a job and let you do it, and he wouldn’t ask you to do anything he wouldn’t do himself."​ Barnett found Litchfield to be more of a law enforcement man than a politician. On several occasions, according to Barnett, Litchfield said that if "you do the right thing, the politics will take care of the rest".[1]

Silas M. Geralds, who retired from the sheriff’s office in 2004 after thirty-seven years of service, said that Litchfield treated everyone equally and with respect. “He demands respect and he gives respect,” said Geralds, who retired as a lieutenant colonel. “If it wasn’t for the sheriff, we (the office) wouldn’t be as forward and advanced as we are today."​[1]

Death and family

Litchfield was married to the former Mississippian Margery Ann Evans (June 6, 1931 – April 19, 2005). The EBR sheriff's department honored her memory by naming its nautical SWAT team the "Miss Margery".​

In retirement, Litchfield planned to spend half his time in Baton Rouge, where his son Gary Stephen Litchfield (born 1958) resides, and the other half in Memphis, Tennessee, the home of his daughter, Marla L. Steepleton (born 1964). Litchfield had several health problems, including heart bypass surgery, prostate cancer, and surgery to repair a hernia.​[1]

Litchfield died in Baton Rouge at the age of eighty-one. His funeral was held on August 7, 2008, at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church, with the Reverend Martin W. Corie officiating. He was interred beside his wife in Greenoaks Memorial Park.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 "Ex-EBR sheriff Litchfield dies at 81," The Baton Rouge Advocate, August 3, 2008.
  2. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns: East Baton Rouge Parish, November 17, 2007.
  3. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns: East Baton Rouge Parish, October 20, 2007.

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