By John Oliver, President, Historical Society

Our look at Trousdale County sheriffs this week leads us to a more recent sheriff in Charles Robinson.

Robinson was the sheriff from 1974 to 1996.

Before his tenure as our sheriff Charles Robinson was a Tennessee State Highway Patrolman. So his knowledge of the criminal justice system was significant when he first ran for the job – and he kept running and he kept getting elected!

In fact, he held the job of sheriff longer than any previous sheriff, for a total of 22 years. He may have gone on to hold the position longer, but he died of natural causes while in office.

Since then our present sheriff, Ray Russell, has just broken that record by having served from 1996 to the present, 23 years and counting!

Submitted photo
Sheriff Charles Robinson is shown here with some confiscated whiskey. The taxes hadn’t been paid on the brew, so it was considered “bootleg whiskey” and was illegal. With him on the left were deputies Larry Turnbow and Jimmy Gregory.

What keeps a sheriff in office so long? Well, that is a sign that the fellow is doing a good job. Usually, the only people that want to get rid of a sheriff are the ones who have seen the inside of the jailhouse from a professional point of view and therefore harbor a grudge.

Many Trousdale County residents probably have stories and recollections about Sheriff Robinson, but a few years ago former Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe spoke to the Historical Society and shared a few stories with the group.

Ashe said that several years earlier, while he was still the sheriff of Wilson County, he was going to entertain some friends and needed a few bottles of whiskey. Wilson County was, at that time, a “dry county.” That meant that it was against the law to sell liquor anywhere inside the county lines.

But Trousdale wasn’t a dry county, so Ashe called up Robinson and asked him to buy him two bottles of whiskey and to meet him at the county line.

At that time, our own county had four liquor stores (two more than the number of stoplights in the county) and Sheriff Robinson agreed to do this favor for his friend.

That evening, well after midnight and at about 2:30 in the morning, Ashe arrived at the meeting spot on Highway 141 South in the Providence Community. Sheriff Ashe didn’t think it would look good for someone to see the sheriff of a dry county being handed two bottles of whiskey by anyone, especially another sheriff so an “after dark” meeting on a lonely stretch of road made sense.

When he got there, Ashe noticed that the sign marking the county line had been picked up and moved about 100 yards, giving Wilson County some extra land. As it turned out, a paving crew had pulled up the sign while paving and then had forgotten just where it had been, or perhaps they simply wanted to play a joke on the local residents! In any respect, Wilson County had grown a bit!

So Sheriff Ashe stopped at this new county line to await the delivery.

Things were quiet at that time of night. Sheriff Ashe got out and leaned against his own patrol car in the warm summer temperatures. He listened for Sheriff Robinson’s car and sure enough, in just a few minutes he heard the vehicle approaching. He knew it was Robinson’s patrol car because Charles had turned the breather on the car upside down to give the engine a little more noise.

It seems that Sheriff Robinson wanted people to hear him coming!

The old road was a winding and turning stretch of asphalt with ups and downs, but where the new sign had been placed it was straight. Straight enough that when Sheriff Robinson saw Ashe, he hit the brakes and slid the last few feet before coming to a stop right next to his friend’s car.

As Sheriff Robinson got out of his patrol car, he hollered to Ashe, “Hell, Terry… we’re already the smallest (expletive) county in the state and now you’ve gone and taken another quarter mile from us!”

Ashe got a good laugh out of the incident and in case you were concerned, the sign was soon placed back in its original location.

We’ll give you the second story next week but warn you that this time the story involves a dead man and the toss of a coin!