The First Law Officer Killed in Winston County

Taken from the second issue of the "Free State Advertiser-Journal" and written by Roger Elliott

The first recorded law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty in Winston County was George W. Elliott. He was born May 16, 1896, to Christopher and Sarah Pilina (Cagle) Elliott. G.W., his mother, father, brothers, and sisters all became members of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church located on County Road 32.

At the age of 17, G.W. married Melinda West who, at the time, was fifteen years old. They had nine children, from the oldest down were: Burdis Elliott, Roy Elliott, Hazel Elliott, sons. Illene Elliott Glaze, Alvie Elliott, Marie Elliott Spears, Zenofia Elliott Nace, Leofia Elliott Pritchett, daughters. G.W. Elliott, son, was born five months after the death of his father.

G.W. and Melinda owned a farm that lay between the Macedonia Road and what is now Highway 278. Their house was located at a place that came to be known as Big Oak. The farm consisted of 122 acres that joined the Jesse Davis farm and Rocky Branch where G.W. also operated a saw mill. G.W. was the song director at Macedonia Baptist Church and sometimes sang with a gospel quartet. He was a good friend of Tom Spears of the Spear family, who later sang for G.W.'s funeral when he was laid to rest at Macedonia. According to friends and family that still remember G.W., he was a Godly man who loved his family very much.

On November 19, 1930, Deputy Sheriff Andrew Willis met G.W. at his home at the Big Oak. G.W. was holding his little twin daughters in his arms and asked them to sing a song for Mr. Willis. When the girls, Zenofia and Leofia, had finished singing, G.W. kissed them and told them that he loved them. Then, Deputy Willis and G.W. left on foot to raid a whiskey still that was located somewhere on Clear Creek. They believed the bootleggers had lookouts posted to watch the roads, so the deputies planned to walk through the woods to the area where they thought the still was located. They left the Big Oak going east toward Clear Creek, each armed with a double barrel shotgun and a revolver with no radios and no back-up, they wereo n their own.

After reaching Clear Creek, they turned south across what is now US 278 near the bridge just west of Mt. Carmel Church. Further down the creek, they found the still located on a branch on the west side. Deputy Willis recognized both of the bootleggers. G.W., being younger and in better shape, told Deputy Willis that he would take the bootlegger that they thought would cause the most trouble and Deputy Willis would take the other one.

When the officers told the bootleggers they were under arrest, both bootleggers broke to run in different directions. Both deputies laid down their shotguns to chase the bootleggers. G.W. had pulled his shoes off, which he always did, so that he could run faster. Deputy Willis' man got away, but G.W. caught his and had to fight him. Those who came later to investigate the area said it was a terrible fight, that the bushes were broken and uprooted where the two men had fought over a large area.

The bootlegger said that a third man came to help him, perhaps it was one of the lookouts, or the man who had got away from Deputy Willis, or maybe the bootlegger was just lying to evade the death penalty. We will probably never know the truth, but sometime during the struggle between the two men, someone took G.W.'s pistol from his holster, placed it against the lower part of his chest and fired upward through his chest. The bullet exited through the upper part of his back between his shoulder blades at the base of his neck.

You would think that such a wound would have killed him immediately, but it didn't. Although G.W. was fatally wounded, he unbuttoned his shirt and placed his hand inside to apply pressure to the wound. This is how Deputy Willis found him. When he got to G.W. he was already dead. Deputy Willis started for help, but heard the bootleggers coming after him because they knew that he could identify them. Deputy Willis crossed Clear Creek and made it to B. Barnett's house near Mt. Carmel Church where he was able to get help. The two bootleggers were both apprehended and served short prison terms. We have been told that they served ten years, but that is not a known fact. The bootlegger never told the third man's name, if there was a third man.

After G.W.'s death, Melinda took her children and moved to town. Their house was located in what is now the newer part of Crestview Cemetery in Haleyville. Melinda got a job at Maroni's boarding house located near where Dr. Lowe's former office is now. Melinda washed dishes and cleaned. They allowed her to bring home the leftovers each day to feed her own family, which she greatly appreciated. On March 13, 1934, Melinda was sitting at her sewing machine making clothes for the twins, when she died from a heart attack.

The cold and heartless actions of a bootlegger directly and indirectly claimed the lives of these two good people and left nine orphans without the love and protection of their parents causing them to face tremendous hardships. Thanks to grandparents, family members, and friends, the children survived to become adults and have families of their own, many of which still live in the area today.

From The Winston Herald, November 21, 1930

Liquor Maker Shoots Deputy

Tragedy was near Double Springs

Posse Hunts Killer

Feeling ran high at this place when the news of murder is announced during session of court.

While raiding a still out 8 or 10 miles west of Double Springs, Deputy Sheriff G.W. Elliott was shot and instantly killed, Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 19.

This officer, in company with Deputy Willis, had been watching two men operate the distillery in the woods and at last decided to close in on and arrest them. They ran each in a different direction, an officer following each man.

From indications, Mr. Elliott captured his man, and he in some way got possession of his gun and killed him with it.

Officer Elliott was buried at Macedonia cemetery yesterday.

Circuit court was in session and Judge Blanton immediately adjourned court for the day in order that the sheriff and his officers could make an effort to apprehend the murderer.

The woods surrounding the still were scoured, but the assailant had evidently fled.

It is claimed the officers recognized the men who were working at the still, so this indicates that an arrest will be made as soon as the suspected man can be found.

Transcribed Death Certificate (Submitted by Louise Birchfield):

State of Alabama-Bureau of Vital Statistics
State Board of Health
File No. 27014

County Winston
Reg. District or Beat No. One
Town or City Double Springs
Street or R. F. D. 2
Length of residence in city or town where death occurred (none given)

2. FULL NAME George Elliott
Residence, No. Double Springs, Ala. Street or R. F. D. 2

3. Sex: Male 4. Color or Race: White 5: Single or Married: Married
5a. If married, widowed or divorced
HUSAND or WIFE of: Malinda West

6. DATE OF BIRTH (month, day, year)
7. 37 years, 6 months, 3 days

8. Trade, profession or particular kind of work done, as, spinner, sawyer, bookkeeper, etc.
Farmer & Deputy Sheriff
9. Industry or business in which work was done, as silk mill, saw mill, bank, etc.
10. Date deceased last worked at this occupation (month and year) 11-19-30
11. Total time (years) spent in this occupation 16 years

12. BIRTHPLACE (city or town) (State or Country) Alabama
13. Name Lum Elliott
14. Birthplace Alabama

15. Sarah Cagle
16. Birthplace Alabama
17. Informant (none listed)

Place Macedonia Date 11-20-1930
19. Undertaker (address) none listed
20. Filed 11/20 1930, Ross Rivers Registrar

21. Date of Death (month, day, and year) Nov 19, 1930
22. I hereby certify that I attended deceased from --------1930 to -------1930.
I last saw him alive on -------1930. Death is said to have occurred on the date stated above about 12:30 p.m.
The principal cause of death and related causes of importance in order of onset were as follows:
Homicide, killed when raiding still, by firearms.
Contributing causes of importance not related to principal cause: none given
Name of operation: none
Date of: none given
What test confirmed diagnosis? None
Was there an autopsy? No
23. If death was due to extrnal causes (violence) fill in also the following:
Accident, suicide, or homicide? Homicide Date of Injury: 11-19-1930
Where did injury occur? About 6 miles west, Double Springs, Alabama
Specifiy if injury occurred in industry, in home, or in public place. Occurred in the woods.
Manner of injury? None given
Nature of injury? Shot _______above _______and sternum
24. Was disease or injury in any way related to occupation of deceased? No. If so, specify
(signed) Thos. M. Blake, M. D.
11-20-30 (address) Double Springs, Ala.