Former longtime Madison sheriff Mitchell dies at 89

Published 11:30 am Monday, April 2, 2012

Former longtime Madison Parish Sheriff Roland Royce “R.R.” Mitchell was being remembered today for being fair, warm-hearted and genuine. He died Friday, March 30, 2012, at his home near Tallulah. He was 89.

“He was a very gracious, warm-hearted person, a man of humility,” said the Rev. John Rushing, retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Tallulah where Mr. Mitchell was a member.

“He was the kind of person that when you were talking with him you knew he was not trying to pretend to be someone else,” Rushing said. “He was just himself.”

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A native of Welsh, La., Mr. Mitchell was a deputy sheriff in Madison Parish for 14 years before his election to the top post in 1968, said his daughter, Naomi Mitchell.

He served as sheriff for 20 years, deciding in 1988 not to run again because “it was just time to retire,” Naomi Mitchell said.

“He cared about his people. As long as he was a deputy and a sheriff, he called them ‘his people,’” she said. “They weren’t ‘Madison Parish citizens,’ they were ‘his people,’ and he did everything he could to take care of them.”

“He was the last of the old-time sheriffs,” said longtime friend John Rogan. “He was a very good man.”

Current Madison Parish Sheriff Larry Cox said Mr. Mitchell was “one of a kind.”

“I had a lot of respect for him — he was well respected not just here in Tallulah but around the state,” said Cox.

“He was probably the most fair but firm person I ever worked for,” said Sammie Byrd, former Madison Parish chief deputy. “He had a memory like an elephant, and if he met you once he’d remember you. That really helped him in his law career.”

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said Mr. Mitchell was always ready to lend professional assistance.

“When I was a young deputy in Warren County, he was the sheriff in Madison Parish,” Pace said. “He was always very helpful to us. He and his staff worked with us on many crimes involving both jurisdictions and he was always very professional.”

In retirement, Mr. Mitchell enjoyed woodworking at his shop at his home, said his daughter. He met friends for coffee every morning, went home and read the paper, then worked in his shop and returned to town for tea with the same friends.

He was a member of the National Sheriff’s Association, a past president of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association and a member of the American Legion Post 100. Mr. Mitchell served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Mitchell leaves three brothers, Richard Mitchell and James Mitchell, both of Sulphur, La., and Forest G. Mitchell of Shreveport; and three grandchildren.

He was predeceased by his daughter, Polly Sharrah of Seattle, Wash.; and a sister.

Services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church of Tallulah with the Rev. John W. Rushing officiating. Burial will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery. Visitation will be from 5 until 7 tonight at Crothers-Glenwood Funeral Home in Tallulah.

Pallbearers will be Larry Mahoney, Danny Bedgood, Jerry Cummins, John Edward Baker, Tyler Brown and Bobby Ezell.

Honorary pallbearers will be Sammie Byrd and B.B. Harmon.