Former sheriff had to put on many hats often

Retiree: Early in his wide-ranging, 20-year career as Carroll sheriff, H. LeRoy Campbell and his wife lived in the jail, above the prisoners' quarters.

January 23, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

H. LeRoy "Monk" Campbell quit after five terms as the elected sheriff of Carroll County in 1982, saying he wanted to retire and do nothing.

Some say Campbell, 82, deserved to do nothing after 20 years of being overworked and underpaid. Campbell and Mildred, his wife of 62 years, were virtually married to the old stone jail in Westminster, living above the prisoners housed there.

For several years, Mildred cooked three meals a day for an average of eight to 10 inmates, while her husband provided security for the sitting Circuit Court judge by day and guarded the jail by night.

In his spare moments, Campbell served all court papers, collected bond money, transported prisoners for medical treatment or court, and repossessed cars and farm equipment. When elected sheriff in 1962, the only help he had was a full-time day jailer and a part-time evening jailer.

"I had to be done [with] whatever I was doing by 9 p.m. when the evening jailer got off work," Campbell said, recalling that it was about 1965 when the county hired Fred Shank as his first deputy.

"I think he made about a $100 a week," said Campbell, noting the salary was a lot more than the $3,000 a year he received then as sheriff. The county eventually hired more help, "about one deputy a year" beginning in 1970, Campbell recalled.

Today, the Carroll County Detention Center is a multimillion dollar, multifacet complex with a sheriff's office, jail, central booking and work-release program. The jail holds up to 240 inmates.

One of the early hires, John Grove, is a bailiff at the county courthouse. He said he was the third deputy hired, joining Campbell's staff in 1971. "Before that, Monk pretty much did everything that needed doing," Grove said.

Most everything has changed since friends talked Campbell, a Republican, into giving up his job as a service manager for a car dealership and running for sheriff. "Those friends were Democrats," he said, "who didn't like the sheriff in those days and got me to run against him."

Back then, the jail inmates were mostly folks the Campbells knew, a town drunk or a town prostitute.

"We had a bank robber once, but no one I'd call famous," Campbell said. Some were downright trustworthy, Campbell said, recalling the time he enlisted the help of some inmates to take a prisoner for medical help.

"He must have been coming off a drunk and was banging his head against the bars when I got the call," Campbell said. "It took three or four of us to get the guy in a car and go to the doctor late at night.

"The doctor took one look and told us to take him to the hospital. We did and we were holding him down while they gave him a shot. He was on a gurney. I had his legs, trying to hold them down and he was lifting me right off the floor while they were giving him a second shot."

Campbell's story got even better. "The ambulance came to transport him to Springfield [a state prison hospital facility in Sykesville], and they wouldn't take him unless I went along," he said. "I had the car and the other prisoners, so I handed the keys to one of them and said, `Here, take these to my wife and tell her to lock you up.' "

"They did," said Mildred Campbell.

Built in 1837, the old jail was enlarged and fireproofed in 1912. The first floor had a kitchen and three cells. The second floor had an office for the sheriff and six cells, which had to be left open so prisoners could use the only bathroom. Some prisoners escaped, but not often, Campbell said. "Mostly, visitors would smuggle in a saw blade and a prisoner would cut through the bars, but I remember one guy who got out and I never figured how he did," Campbell said.

About 1968, the old jail was condemned, and inmates were housed in Baltimore jails until the detention center was built, Campbell said. He and his wife moved out of the old stone jail in 1970.

Recently, they attended the ribbon cutting for the 100-bed addition at the detention center, which triggered so many memories of those good old days before rehabilitation programs, when inmates "didn't have much to do but sit around and think of getting out, or complaining about the food."

Mildred Campbell took those food complaints personally at first, but she said she quickly learned to dismiss them.

"When we first got there, prisoners were served bread and molasses and black coffee for breakfast and supper, and they had their main meal at noon," she recalled. "We got some chickens, and I began making eggs for breakfast, and they got milk for their coffee.'

At night, she served sandwiches and fruit. For the main meal, she made a meat dish with two vegetables. She recalled that some of the "regulars" used to tell the new prisoners, "The food is OK, if you like deer." Deer killed on roads and highways were brought to the jail, and the sheriff had seven meat lockers at Hahn's of Westminster, a slaughterhouse, where the meat and vegetables were stored.

"We had a large garden -- where the detention center is now located -- and grew a lot of the vegetables served to the prisoners," Mr. Campbell said. "The best garden we ever had was one summer when a lady -- we didn't have too many lady prisoners -- came in. She used to get a little tipsy on occasion and this time, she got 60 days. She was out there every day working in the garden, and it never looked better than that summer."

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