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Hernando County

The Sheriff's 1901 - 2000

From Old Brooksville in Photos and Stories

January 2004 Vol 68

Publisher: Bob Martinez

Used with Permission

1901 - 1921 W. E. Law

The father of Neil Law Sr., who would also be Sheriff. The first Sheriff of the 20th century, he was the first to utilize the telephone and the automobile. His tenure was the longest up to that time.

1921 - 1933 W. E. Cobb

The father of Bill Cobb, a popular City Police Chief for many years. The elder Cobb was a stern, hard man for hard times. This was the era of prohibition and it brought about anew era of crime and introduced "gangsters" to everyday headlines. There was a lot of bloodshed including at the hands of Cobb when he shot and killed Warren Springstead in 1930 and "Cager" Rogers in 1932, two prominent local citizens,under a cloud of controversy. He was Sheriff at the time of the infamous Tangerine Hotel driveby shotgun slaying of Herbert Smithson, City Attorney in 1931. Smithson was suspected of being a government informant on bootlegging operations. Cobb died in 1946.

1933 - 1949 Neil Law

One of the most popular Sheriff's in local history (see One Tough Dude). He tamed the bootleggers and violent crime that raged under Cobb. He was the first to use radios to nab criminals or keep in contact with deputies. He faced down Tampa gangster Charley Wall. He was praised nationally in the magazine article, "The Sheriff with a Heart" which was also mentioned over NBC News in 1947. He died in 1960.

1949 - 1971 Sim L. Lowman

Lowman had the longest tenure of any Sheriff in Hernando County History. Even though it was just a bit over 20 years, it may have seemed like a hundred. Comparing the attitudes and lifestyles from 1949 -1971 are like comparing it to another century. He underwent the most turbulent and sensitive times of integration, but handled it with great aplomb and fairness. He was at one time the President of the Florida Sheriff's Association and his famous annual fish fry of mullet,grits and huspuppies raised much money for the Florida Sheriff's Youth Fund. When he died in 1992, he was remembered as a friend for everyman.

1972 - 1984 Melvin Kelly

Ever since he was a small lad, all Kelly wanted was to be a "lawman". As far back as 1941-1942, he was a military policeman during World War II. He served on Florida's Highway Patrol for a couple of years before becoming a member of the Hernando County's Sheriff Office from 1956 to 1972 as a deputy, criminal investigator and chief deputy. He was one ofthe first K-9 officers in the state using his faithful dog, "King". Kelly's detective work had him featured in worldwide detective magazines during the sixties and seventies.It was a new wave of crime involving the illegal drug trade, but his dogged efforts earned him a U. S. Department of Justice-Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Award. Always a smile for everyone even up to the end on April 11, 2002.

1985 - 2000 Tom Mylander

No one else experienced the growth that Mylander did. Earlier Sheriffs, especially before the late 1960's never worried much about the west side of the county. With the booming of Spring Hill's population, a radical shift in demographics propeled Hernando County into the big leagues of crime. It was a new breed of criminal, like Hank Earl Carr and the hostage situation at I-75 or Michael"Edwin" Kaprate,charged with killing 6 elderly patients. They use to say, "It can't happen here". Well it did. Mylander's budget grew from $3.4 million to $16.2 million. Deputies went from 44 to 180. An aviation unit grew to include tow turbine powered helicopters. He also formed a team of forensic professionals. He was the first sheriff to utiize modern ways of law enforcement. When he left office in 2000, he had won numerous awards for his achievements.