Sheriff John B. York
John B. York was an early settler in Tarrant County and had taken up residence prior to the arrival of the United States Army troops, the founders of Fort Worth in 1849. Mr. York and his family had come from Missouri and settled three miles north of the present day Old Courthouse.
As a deputy, John B. York worked for the first elected Sheriff of Tarrant County, Francis Jourdan. York succeeded Jourdan and held office from 1852-1856. Tarrant County had two-year elected terms and Sheriff York was elected for a third term in 1858 and served until his death in 1861. His accomplishments include the construction of the first Tarrant County Jail, located at the northwest corner of Jones and East Belknap Street.
Although there are a number of accounts concerning the death of Sheriff York, the most plausible is based on the County’s atmosphere during the “Birdville vs. Fort Worth” battle for a County Seat. Elections had been held in 1856 and 1860, with each side very split and opinionated. Eventually, the growth of Fort Worth, as well as the votes of some cowboys from Wise County, gave the victory to Fort Worth.
Entangled in the highly contested battle was A.Y. Fowler, an established Dallas attorney and staunch Birdville supporter. Fowler was known as a heavy drinker with a volatile temper who carried a Bowie knife.
The stage was set for a potential showdown between opposing factions at a frequent gathering area known as Cold Springs. Hiram Calloway, a Fort Worth attorney and staunch Fort Worth supporter, ended up in an argument with A.Y. Fowler. As the story goes, Calloway pushed Fowler from a small bluff and Fowler injured his arm. Sheriff York sided with Calloway and refused to file charges. At the time, it was commonplace for the paths that led to the entrance and exit for Cold Springs’ events to be one-way for the entrance and the opposite path for exit. To incense partygoers, Fowler decided to go against traffic. Sheriff York stepped in and removed Fowler from the situation. Although the friends of A.Y. Fowler had taken his knife earlier in the day, they feared A. Y. Fowler’s temper and rushed him away from the barbecue before another incident occurred. As A. Y. Fowler was led away, he vowed vengeance against Sheriff York.
During the year of Sheriff York’s death in 1891, Tarrant County did not have a Courthouse and the Sheriff’s Office was a small two-room brick building in the open Square a few yards west of where the present courthouse was to be built. The next day after the barbecue, a visibly intoxicated and enraged Fowler met the unarmed Sheriff York on the street and proceeded to rain threats on him. Fowler attacked Sheriff York’s cheek with the flat side of his knife.
There have been different accounts of what happened next. Some reports reveal Sheriff York immediately went to arm himself, while others argued he reached for a revolver in a flap holster. Most witnesses testified Sheriff York was in the law office of John Peter Smith when Fowler rushed in to stab him. Sheriff York suffered twenty-seven stab wounds while trying to reach his gun. Assuming Sheriff York was dead, Fowler walked out of the law office. Fowler turned to see the wounded Sheriff York walk out of the law office with his gun drawn and pointed at him. Fowler threw up his hand and exclaimed, “For God sake boys, don’t let him shoot me.” Sheriff York fired a shot, which clipped the tip of Fowler’s little finger, hitting him directly in the heart. Suffering from a gunshot wound to the heart, Fowler walked around the corner of the building and fell dead.
After Sheriff York killed A. Y. Fowler, his brother Bill Fowler suddenly appeared and fired a shotgun at Sheriff York, hitting him in the upper part of the body. Sheriff York was quickly moved to the Andrews Hotel. Sheriff York lived until 3:00 p.m. the next day. Sheriff York was buried in Mitchell Cemetery, located behind the present day Fort Worth Grain Exchange on Decatur Street. In the 1930s, a local newspaper article explained that individuals from the Diamond Hill Community knew the whereabouts of the grave. Sheriff York is the first recorded Tarrant County Peace Officer killed in the line of duty and his name was recently added to the State and National Peace Officer Memorials.
Deputy R.W. (Dick) Townsend
On August 3, 1886, a group of law enforcement officers attempted to escort a train out of Fort Worth. The train was south bound, where four strikers were seen tampering with a track switch. Special Deputy Townsend and other law enforcement officers stopped the train to arrest the men. Several other strikers were seen with Winchesters (rifles), reclining in a gully. Deputy Jim “Longhair” Courtwright requested the riflemen lay down their weapons. They opened fire on the lawmen.
Deputy Townsend was guarding the prisoners when a rifle bullet struck him just above the heart. Two other Deputies were wounded in the initial gunfire from the strikers. The lawmen returned fire, but the strikers were out of pistol range. A mortally wounded Deputy Townsend emptied one pistol and crawled back to the cab of the train engine. Once in the cab of the train engine, Deputy Townsend turned his pistols over to the train fireman. Deputy Townsend died at 2:13 p.m. the next day, April 4, 1886. It was shortly after this bloody gun battle and continued threat of escalating violence, that the Fort Worth Mayor and Sheriff requested two Companies of Texas Rangers or State Militia from the Governor of Texas.
Deputy Hamil P. Scott
May 1, 1907
Hamil P. Scott was born in Smith County, Virginia. His family moved to a farm north of Fort Worth in 1872. Prior to his employment at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, he was an express manager for the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad, where he was involved in several gunfights with train robbers. Hamil Scott also nearly burned to death in a derailed, overturned train. Scott left the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad and served the Tarrant County Sheriffs’ Office for a period of ten years. After that, Scott became a Claims Agent for the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad, which led to his commission as a special Deputy by the Tarrant County Sheriffs’ Office.
On Friday, March 22, 1907 about 5:00 p.m., Deputy Scott was returning from the Annual Fort Worth Fat Stock Show, in Niles City, where the present day Fort Worth Stock Yards are located. It has been speculated that Deputy Scott was probably working security at the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show. As Deputy Scott came into downtown Fort Worth, he observed the murder of Tarrant County Attorney Jefferson McLean. William Thomason shot County Attorney McLean point blank in the throat because of McLean’s efforts to clean up local gambling halls.
A citizen recognized Hamil Scott as a local peace officer and informed him of the suspect’s direction of escape. Without hesitation, Deputy Scott went in pursuit of the killer - running into an alley between Houston and Throckmorton Streets. Suspect Thomason saw Deputy Scott in close pursuit and ran into another alley off Seventh Street. The suspect hid behind some packing boxes and waited to ambush Deputy Scott. As Deputy Scott entered the alley Thomason shot him in the arm, causing Deputy Scott to drop his pistol. Thomason fired a second shot, hitting Deputy Scott in the spinal cord, paralyzing him from the chest down. He then took Scott’s pistol and fled the scene. Other law enforcement officers shot and apprehended suspect Thomason in a lumberyard. Suspect Thomason died from his wounds within days. Deputy Scott lingered near death for almost six weeks before succumbing to his gunshot wounds on May 1,1907. Deputy Scott was survived by his wife Margaret Campbell Scott. It was reported the citizens of Tarrant County were deeply touched by the death of Deputy Scott and closed all Tarrant County offices, as well as many businesses, to attend the large funeral.
Deputy Malcom S. Davis
Malcolm S. Davis was born in 1881, probably near the community of Grapevine where he is buried. It is unknown when Malcolm Davis joined the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, but he is listed as a Deputy on the letterhead of Sheriff Sterling Clark in 1920.
On January 6,1933, Tarrant County Sheriff J.R. “Red” Wright, Deputy Davis and other Deputies, as well as staff from the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, went into an unincorporated area west of Dallas, 507 County Avenue, to investigate the robbery of the Home Bank in Grapevine, which had been robbed a week earlier. Law enforcement officials, acting on a tip, wanted to question a woman at the location. After determining the woman was not there, three law enforcement officers waited outside the house for the night. Deputy Davis was outside located near the rear of the house. At approximately midnight, a car entered the driveway and a woman inside alerted the occupants of the car about law enforcement officials. Both men in the car started firing on the house. Deputy Davis ran from the rear of the house and was shot in the abdomen with a shotgun at very close range. Deputy Davis sat on the front porch of the house and died almost immediately. The two male suspects escaped. The man who shot Deputy Davis was later identified as Clyde Barrow, from the famous criminal duo of Bonnie and Clyde. After an intensive manhunt throughout the southwest, law enforcement officials later killed Bonnie and Clyde in Louisiana.
Deputy Clark Rosenbalm Jr.
Deputy Clark Rosenbalm Jr. was born in August 1955, and was a life long resident of Tarrant County. After graduating from Diamond Hill – Jarvis High School in 1973, Rosenbalm held a variety of jobs before being employed by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office in 1981 as a Patrol Deputy.
Deputy Rosenbalm was on routine patrol December 4,1983 at about 9:15 p.m., when he came upon two vehicles parked on the west side of Old Decatur Road near the intersection of Business 287 just north of the City of Saginaw. Deputy Rosenbalm, a two-year veteran of law enforcement, exited his vehicle to conduct an investigation. Deputy Rosenbalm apparently interrupted a drug deal in progress, and the suspects struggled with Deputy Rosenbalm in an effort to escape. Deputy Rosenbalm was shot by one of the two suspects and killed when the bullet went under his bulletproof vest. Deputy Rosenbalm was survived by his wife. Deputy Rosenbalm was the first Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office employee killed in the line of duty in almost 40 years. Law enforcement officials later apprehended the suspects and the individual who murdered Deputy Rosenbalm was later executed by the State of Texas.
Deputy Frank Howell
Deputy Frank D. Howell was born in July 1948, and was an active member in the community for many years. Deputy Howell was a 15-year veteran of law enforcement, starting his career at the age of 17 as a police dispatcher for the City of Lake Worth. During his law enforcement career, Deputy Howell worked as a police officer for Watauga, Richland Hills, Forest Hill, Benbrook and Tarrant County Constable’s Office. Deputy Howell also served three years as a Municipal Judge in Saginaw.
On November 3, 1986, Deputy Howell had been with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office for one year as a Deputy serving criminal warrants. Deputy Howell noticed a suspicious vehicle parked in a lot behind the Veterans of Foreign Wars building at 400 West Felix in Fort Worth. While questioning the suspects to determine if a crime had occurred, Deputy Howell was shot and killed by one of the suspects.
His murder sparked one of the largest and longest manhunts in Tarrant County history. The name of the prime suspect in the murder of Deputy Howell was immediately known because the suspect dropped his wallet at the crime scene. However, the suspect fled to Mexico before being apprehended. The suspect was captured ten years later, but the Government of Mexico refused to extradite the murder suspect to the United States since the State of Texas was seeking the death penalty. The suspect was convicted by a court in Mexico for the murder of Deputy Howell and sentenced to 40 years. Deputy Howell is survived by his wife and three children.
Lieutenant Maurice Hendrix
Lieutenant Maurice Hendrix was born in October 1945, and started his career at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office in 1991 as a Detention Officer. Working his way up the chain of command, he became Lieutenant of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Training Academy. Prior to his employment with the Sheriff’s Office, Lieutenant Hendrix had served several years active duty in the United States Army, receiving helicopter flight training. Lieutenant Hendrix had worked a variety of jobs, including one year as a patrol officer at the Euless Police Department and over five years with the Shreveport Police Department. At the time of his death, Lieutenant Hendrix was a Colonel in the United States Army Reserve.
Lieutenant Hendrix and Criminal Investigator Deputy T.J. Smith were conducting a helicopter surveillance flight September 17, 1997, attempting to locate stolen motor vehicles in unincorporated areas of northern Tarrant County. During a take off attempt, the helicopter crashed and both Lieutenant Hendrix and Deputy T.J. Smith were killed instantly. Lieutenant Hendrix is survived by his wife Marsha and their son Mark.
Deputy Thomas Jay (T.J.) Smith
Detective Thomas Jay (T.J) Smith was born in November 1951, and was a 12-year veteran of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to his employment in 1985, Deputy Smith worked a variety of jobs, including five years as a Law Enforcement Specialist in the United States Air Force and several months at the River Oaks Police Department. During his career with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Smith received numerous Letters of Commendation, and worked in the Warrants Division and Criminal Investigations Division.
Deputy Smith and Training Academy Lieutenant Maurice Hendrix were conducting a helicopter surveillance flight September 17, 1997, attempting to locate stolen motor vehicles in unincorporated areas of northern Tarrant County. During a take off attempt, the helicopter crashed and both Lieutenant Hendrix and Deputy Smith were killed upon impact. Deputy T.J. Smith is survived by his wife Cathy and children.