Interview of James Samuel Dishman

James Samuel Dishman was interviewed on March 25, 1977 by Natalie Smith on behalf of the Lewis Egerton Smoot Memorial Library. He was 91 years old at the time of the interview. The original recording and transcript are at the Smoot Library in King George County, Virginia.

The interview duration is 10:16.

Click the play symbol to hear interview.

Transcription of Audio

March 25, 1977. I am Natalie Smith. On behalf of the Lewis Egerton Smoot Library, I am interviewing Mr. J.S. Dishman, former Sheriff of King George County, Virginia, at his home in Ninde, Virginia.

Natalie Smith: Mr. Dishman, how did you happen to choose to run for Sheriff of King George County?

J.S. Dishman: The office became vacant by the sheriff resigning and some of the officials of the County asked me, and after considering, I took it for an unexpired term of one month and one year, and at the end of that year, I ran for the first time without any opposition – of course I was elected. The next three times, I had opposition each time, but I was elected each time, and on the fifth time, I refused to run again – – at the end of that term.

NS: Mr. Dishman, was your office in the Courthouse, and if you had any prisoners where did you keep them?

JSD: Well, the office in the Courthouse allowed me to use the juror room. Of course on court days the jury had the room and I didn’t. The jail was condemned by the State as soon as I took the job and then I made arrangements and used the Fredericksburg jail for all my prisoners the balance of term.

NS: Did you have any deputies to help you — did you have a telephone — did you have a patrol car?

JSD: I didn’t have any deputies– not until ‘44. The Compensation Board in Richmond allowed me to have a part-time deputy, and I had a part-time deputy and could only take him on when I actually needed him.

NS: Did you have a telephone or a car?

JSD: I had a car – – a telephone in my home, but none in the car.

NS: And there was no telephone that you could use in the Courthouse?

JSD: Oh yes:

NS: There was a telephone.

JSD: And I could use the telephone in the Clerk’s Office.

NS: When people needed you, if a crime was being committed, where did they call you?

JSD: They could call me at my home – always get me if they called me at my home. I didn’t have no radio in my car; but later, the State had several second-hand radios and I bought one myself and had it installed in my car.

NS: Was that at your own expense?

JSD: I bought it at my own expense and I had it put in; bought it and put it in, and it cost me $100.(one hundred dollars). But the State kept it up after I got it.

NS: I see. Mr. Dishman, what kind of crime occurred in the County while you were Sheriff?

JSD: Well the first term, most of it was all – – – most of it was misdemeanors. I had no serious crime – no murders – during my term.

NS: And you had no crimes committed with guns!

JSD: Uh, yes, I had one committed with a gun, but it turned out to be accidentally and it didn’t amount to criminal.

NS: What crimes were classified as misdemeanors?

JSD: Such as traffic and — I’m trying to think what else; and ordinary assault and robbery – – –

NS: And petty thievery?

JSD: What you call petty robbery – – – for my first term, mostly, I never had no real serious crime.

NS: Was there much breaking and entering?

JSD: Not as much at first, but my last term I had right much of it. It had begun to increase and the most of my work towards last was civil warrants – civil warrants is a collect bill, and I had them piled on me right much. When I first took the Sheriff’s Office, I only had to go to King George three days a week. I had the County Court three days a week then. But after the first term, it became any day. It increased, and the longer I stayed there, the more it increased.

NS: Mr. Dishman, how did you catch speeders in your patrol car?

JSD: Well, my car was officially tested for speeders, and I had a two-way radio and a siren, and when I was out on the road and saw any violation, I would take it up, and I pulled right many speeders.

NS: I’ve heard that you once arrested Elder Michaux from Washington. Can you tell us about that?

JSD: I was coming from Fredericksburg to King George and on a straight lane – it was in Maytime – a limousine passed me and it was running very fast and I had right much difficulty in stopping ’em, but when I stopped ’em, I checked on the driver and he — operator’s license all right —, I asked him for the registration card, and he said the Reverend in the back got the registration card. Well, I said, ‘Who is the Reverend?’ He said, ‘Reverend Michaux.’ I said, ‘Reverend Michaux, get out and let’s get acquainted.’ And when he came out, he came out with his Bible in his hand. He said, ‘How often shall thy forgive thy brother? Seven times? No, seven times seven! And, if you find your brother in fault, go to him.’ And he went with such a length on the Bible ’till he got through, —I said, ‘Well go thy way and sin no more!’ And he hollered out as loud as you could hear him holler, ‘Go thy way and sin no more!’ He said, ‘I’ll preach on that tomorrow.’ And he did. And I heard him next morning, he give a good account of it. And from then, he would send me literature from his office and write me. He said, ‘When you come to Washington, let me know and I will have my car and chauffeur carry you anywhere you want.’

NS: Did you ever go to Washington?

JSD: Yes, I went, but I didn’t call on him.

NS: Oh, that’s a shame. Were there any other famous people to whom you gave tickets?

JSD: I had a call to pull – State Senator Robert O. Lowery. I was on State Highway 301, headed North, and a car passed me right rapid. And I had difficulty on stopping them but ever stopped ’em. I found it was State Senator Robert O. Lowery and he was on the way to Laurel, Maryland to the horse races. And at first, he said, ‘Sheriff’, he said, ‘How is my good friend, Douglas Gray?’ I said, ‘I’m going to give you a chance to renew your credit with him.’ I said, ‘Senator, you don’t seem to like King George, do you?’ He said, ‘Yes, I like King George.’ I said, ‘It looks like you’re in a big hurry to get out of here.’ And I gave him a ticket and he came back to town and paid his fine.

NS: Mr. Dishman, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your childhood and how old you are and when you were born.

JSD: I was born and raised in King George and lived in King George all my life. I was born in 1885 — and I had one brother and four sisters; we all lived together and all is gone and been gone except me. I went to school to a one-room school. I had a (sic, attended) of five months a year, later to six months, and I might have reached seventh grade. I never went to school after I was eighteen years old, I had to go to work. And I was married when I was twenty-eight years old and I raised seven children – five daughters and two sons – and all are living and all have got families of their own. And I am the only one of my original family living.

NS: Mr. Dishman, you say you’ve lived in King George all your life?

JSD: Yes, I’ve lived in King George all my life –

NS: But you’re not finished.

JSD: But I haven’t finished yet.

NS: That’s good news.

JSD: I have lived here all my life up to now but I haven’t finished.

NS: Good!

Transcribed by Katherine Cornell (with corrections by Keith Dishman)

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