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Monday, May 2, 2016

They called the sheriff, "Ma'am'

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Ruth Tilley looks through a scrapbook at her home, remembering when she was the Clay County sheriff back in 1943.

She was no pistol packin' mama and didn't even have a badge. But Ruth Tilley was the sheriff of Clay County. She held the top county law enforcement post for a month from Dec. 1943-Jan. 1944.

A Brazil native, Ruth Salin lived with her family near Hadleytown, a neighborhood off of East Pinckley Street on the south side of town. Their 6-acre yard was adjacent to the property that is now the Forest Park Golf Course. Ruth said after the golf course was built, she remembers her mother taking a bucket out in their back yard and collecting stray golf balls to sell.

Ruth completed eight years at the Hadleytown School before starting her freshman year at Brazil Jr. High. Reminiscing about the Hadleytown School, which no longer exists, Ruth recalled her happy years there.

"It was east of the Bethel Church but on the south side of Pinckley," Ruth said. "The two room building set over a two-room basement. Grades 1 through 4 were taught in one room and 5 through 8 were in the other. We had two teachers.

"The rest rooms were in the basement and there was enough room for the kids to play ball and have recess down there in the bad weather.

"The school was eventually closed and a family bought it. They tore down the top structure and built their home over the basement. That house is still there but I imagine it has different owners now."

Ruth graduated from Brazil High School in 1932. They had no yearbook that year. The school corporation said it was because they needed all of their money to pay for the newly-constructed junior high gymnasium. Looking back, Ruth thinks there may have been another reason.

"I'm just speculating," she said. "I really don't know. The students paid for their own yearbooks, not the school corporation. But the country was in a severe depression then and most people didn't have money to pay for a yearbook.

"Many had a hard time buying food and paying the rent. Maybe the corporation did that just to take the pressure off the families who couldn't afford it. Kind of equalize everything for everybody."

Because of the Depression, jobs were scarce when Ruth graduated. There was a presidential election in 1932. Family friend Lucille Hamm was vice chairman of the Clay County Republican Party. She asked Ruth to work at the Republican headquarters.

"If any Republicans had been elected I would have gotten a job at the courthouse," Ruth explained. "But Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidency and carried his party with him here. Not a single Republican was elected in Clay County that year."

Ruth finally got a part-time job at Linn Kidd's insurance office in 1934. A friend and co-worker, Virginia Pratt dated Eddie Carmichael who worked at the Big Ben Coal Company. Virginia fixed Ruth up on a date with one of Eddie's friends from the mine, a handsome young baseball player named Maurice Tilley.

Their first double date was dinner at the Mission Inn on U.S. 40 east of the old phone company building.

That began a courtship that took Ruth all over the Wabash Valley following her boyfriend to his ball games. Maurice first played for the Saline City Neversweats. He later joined the Brazil semi-pro team playing with Roy and Ray Brann, Fred Barding and Jim Buell.

Shortly after they were married in 1938, Maurice got a job at the Chrysler Corp. in Evansville so he could play baseball with the Chrysler baseball team. With several other ballplayers and co-workers from Brazil, Maurice stayed in Evansville during the week and came home on the weekends to be with his wife.

Before John, the first of their two sons, was born, Maurice left Chrysler and got a job as the Clay County Deputy Sheriff.

Tomorrow: Maurice runs for sheriff.

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