Written by Gene Barron
Public Servant George Miller Edwards
March 1, 1887 – June 12, 1964
George Miller Edwards was the second child born to George W. and Bettie Miller Edwards of Marion. His career in law enforcement began when he became deputy sheriff under F. W. “Pat” Murphy in 1924. Sheriff Murphy was at odds with Governor Huey Long at the time and therefore the lack of state funds available to him hampered his ability to afford many deputies. Edwards and R. B. Mabry were the only outside deputies, while Deputy Jack Terral handled the office duties.
When Sheriff “Pat” Murphy died in office in 1939, his wife, the former Kathleen Turnage, finished out his term. Edwards took over much of the running of the office at the time. He served as deputy under John Hester from 1940 until 1955 at which time he elected to run for the office.
Edwards was elected and served as sheriff from 1944 until 1956. In 1956 Jurd Stewart was elected sheriff and Edwards continued his career in law enforcement under Steward. During Stewart’s term from 1956 through 1964 Edwards was chief deputy and handled cases involving accidents, breaking up moonshine stills and murder. Over the years he found he could handle most cases without violence and seldom carried a firearm.
In 1964 newly elected Sheriff Dennis Long and his deputies including George Miller Edwards, had just been sworn in the week before, when on the morning of Friday, June 12, 1964, the sheriff’s department was notified that there had been another break-in at Linville High School. Most of the deputies were out patrolling the parish at the time, while Deputy Bobby Tucker was en route transferring a prisoner to Ouachita Parish. George Miller Edwards, Aylmer Gray Taylor, a four year veteran with former sheriff Jurd Stewart, and rookie deputy Glenn Barron were in the office when the call came in. There had been a rash of break-ins at the school and Edwards was familiar with them, having investigated them under Sheriff Stewart. When Edwards was told of the break-in he commented, “I know who did that.”
After obtaining a search warrant, Edwards, along with Deputies Aylmer Gray Taylor, and Glenn Barron, who was serving his first week as a deputy, started to the patrol car to go question the suspect, when Glenn remarked , “I guess I’d better take my gun,” and went back to the office for it before rejoining the others.
They traveled to Marion where the suspect , William Heard Nolan, lived in a shack in the woods south of Marion. The shack was just that – a one room shanty with dirt floor.
The deputies stopped the car several yards away and approached the shack on foot. Edwards, leading the way with search warrant in hand, called Nolan to the door. With both arms raised and hands resting on the door facings he informed Nolan that there had been another break-in at the Linville School and that they needed to search his house. Nolan responded, “I’ll see you in hell first!”
With that Nolan pulled out a .22 caliber Saturday night special and fired. The first shot went through George Miller’s heart. It was reported in the newspaper that as Edwards fell mortally wounded he was heard to have said, “Take him boys!” This however is contradicted by Deputy Glenn Barron, who was the sole survivor of the shooting. Barron said all he heard was Heard saying, “I’ll see you in Hell first,” when Edwards asked to search his house.
The second shot hit Deputy Aylmer Gray Taylor in the chest as he tried to subdue Nolan. He died on the spot. Glenn Barron dropped to his knees and fired three times. The final shot hit Nolan in the head. He lived for a while after being shot but never made a statement. (Years later Barron confessed that he was really shook up for he was trying to hit Nolan in the torso, but due to the excitement all three of his shots went high.)
George Miller Edwards had had dealings with Nolan during his years with the sheriff’s office but never expected him to get violent.
After searching Nolan’s shack, deputies found a sack of onions and six pounds of butter that were missing from the Linville School. Discussing the shooting later back at the sheriff’s office one deputy commented, “Two good men dead because of a sack of onions and six pounds of butter.”
The funeral for George Miller Edwards was held Saturday June 13th at 4 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Farmerville. Pallbearers were Sheriff Dennis Long, M. Stein Baughman Sr., Lonnie Byrom, Judge J. R. Dawkins, Frank Yelton, Jurd Stewart, Larkin Edwards and Felix Hale. He was laid to rest in the Farmerville Cemetery.
I am sure there have been other dedicated law enforcement officers in Union Parish, but I venture to say that there have been none more dedicated than the man, George Miller Edwards.
Gene has also written two historical books on Union Parish. I highly recommend both.