Cynthia A. Graham Interviews Sheriff Hick Blackburn from Beneath Still Waters
CG: Good morning. You’re listening to KGRA News for northeastern Arkansas. It’s June 2, 1950 and here are today’s headlines: Yesterday, the island of Guam became a United States territory and its residents granted citizenship. Mauna Loa, on the island of Hawaii began erupting, partially destroying the city of Hilo. In local news Otis Douglas and Lt. Governor Gordon will be judges at the annual Jr. Chamber of Commerce beauty pageant on June 8 and 9 held at Haley Field in Blythesville. Today’s weather is looking to be another hot one with no rain in the forecast. This morning, in our “hometown heroes” series, we are interviewing Sheriff Andrew Jackson “Hick” Blackburn from the town of Cherokee Crossing. Sheriff Blackburn is a World War Two veteran earning numerous citations overseas, such as the good conduct medal and the Silver Star. After serving his country, he returned home to serve his community as the youngest sheriff ever elected in Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas, winning that election three years ago at only twenty-two years of age. It is my great pleasure to welcome him to the studio this morning. We thank you, Sheriff Blackburn, for your military service and for joining us.
HB: Thank you.
CG: You have become a kind of lightning rod due to recent events, for example, your arrest of one of the most prominent citizens in your town for the murder of an infant. Many believe this person was unfairly accused and it has been widely reported in the press that you are incompetent. How do you answer your critics?
HB: I’m not a political person and I don’t care about my critics. Me and my deputies worked hard on that case and, in the end, the killer even confessed. For some, that was still not enough, but It’s not my business to change minds. I intend to do more than just keep the peace. I intend to find the truth and sometimes the truth ain’t always popular. As I have told the “press” you’re referring to, until I’m voted out of office I will do my job the way I see fit.
CG: You claim that you are not a “political person” and, yet, you’ve run for sheriff twice. How do you reconcile that?
HB: When I got back from the war I didn’t know what to do with myself. My brother-in-law, who is also my deputy, got me on at the station. Soon after, Sheriff Michaels decided to retire so all three of us deputies put our names on the ballot. Truth be told, my name was really only there as a joke.
CG: And, yet, you won?
HB: Well, the other two deputies had been around a long time and when folks know you real well you tend to make a few enemies.
CG: I suppose the fact that you were a war hero also helped with your election?
HB: Ma’am, the word “hero” doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not a hero. I did my job, plain and simple, and a lot of things happened over there that I wish didn’t. I did my duty and came home. I don’t think that makes me a hero.
CG: There are a lot of people who would disagree with you, but I see by your face that this discussion is closed so I’ll leave it at that. You say your name was put on the ballot as a joke the first time, yet you ran again. Can you tell us why?
HB: I had intended to resign. In fact, my mind was pretty well made up. But my wife, she kind of talked me into keeping the job.
CG: Why is that?
HB: She felt like I had some things I needed to prove to the town – and I guess to myself.
CG: And do you regret your decision?
HB: There are days I do and days I don’t. There are other things I could be doing. Factories up north are hiring, but I reckon I’ll stay put for now. My wife’s happy and my family is all in Cherokee Crossing. I love my town and have lived there all my life.
CG: For the first time, I see you’re smiling. Tell me about your wife. How long have you been married?
HB: I married Maggie in 1948, so a little over two years.
CG: Where did you meet?
HB: She lived next door. Just like you see in the movies. The girl next door.
CG: Sounds like a storybook romance.
HB: Well, not exactly. I had some hard times when I got back from Europe and Maggie stood by me through some real rough patches.
CG: So I guess the old saying is true, “Behind every great man is a great woman.”
HB: Well, I wouldn’t say I’m a great man and I would never say Maggie belongs behind me. More like beside me, like my right hand.
CG: Do you have any children?
HB: We have a son, Jimmy, named for my daddy who passed away while I was overseas. My boy’s about five months old now.
CG: What is it that you want for your son?
HB: I guess my biggest hope is to be half as good to him as my daddy was to me. My daddy was my school principal and the best man I’ve ever known. He took the time to know people – the kids in town, the kids of the tenant farmers. He was always respectful to everyone from the richest farmer to the town hobo. I want my son to know how important that is. I want him to respect other people, regardless of their education, or the amount of money they have, or their race. These are things my daddy taught me.
CG: Your father sounds like a remarkable man.
HB: Yes, ma’am. He was.
CG: So, do you intend to stay sheriff of Cherokee Crossing?
HB: For the time being. Things have been pretty quiet since the baby was murdered two years ago. I don’t reckon I’ll see anything like …
CG: Is something wrong?
HB: I hate to cut this short, ma’am, but my deputy is signaling for me through the window. It seems urgent.
CG: I completely understand. I hope everything is okay.
HB: Yes, ma’am. Thank you for having me.
CG: Good luck, Sheriff Blackburn. We wish you well.
HB: Thank you.
CG: We’ll be back after these messages. You’re listening to KGRA, news for Northeastern Arkansas.
Cynthia A. Graham has a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. She was the winner of several writing awards during her academic career and her short stories have appeared in both university and national literary publications. Cynthia is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Sisters In Crime. She is the author of two works of historical mystery; Beneath Still Waters and Behind Every Door. Cynthia’s debut novel Beneath Still Waters received a gold medal from the Independent Publishers Association (IPPY) for mystery. It is also shortlisted for the Midwest Publisher’s Award in mystery.
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