For the Fulton family, law enforcement is a family business –
Story and photo by Patricia Beech –
Former Adams County Sheriff Louie Fulton turns 80 on April 29.
Fulton served as the county’s Sheriff for only 12 years, but he says “It seems like I’ve worn a badge my whole life” – and he has, first as an unpaid special deputy, then as Sheriff, then as a GE Security Guard, and finally, as Judge Alan Foster’s bailiff in county court until health problems forced him to retire.
“I miss the job, and I miss the people,” he says. “I really liked helping people.”
Current Adams County Sheriff Kimmy Rogers, who began his law enforcement career as one of Fulton’s deputies, calls his old boss a “people person” unchanged by passing years.
“If you know Louie now, you knew Louie then,” Rogers says. “He liked people, and they liked him because he treated everybody fairly – employees and the public, rich or poor, he treated everyone the same.”
Winchester Police Chief David Benjamin often wishes he’d had the opportunity to work with Fulton, who also happens to be his great uncle.
“I would have loved to have had the opportunity to go on some calls with him just to see how he dealt with the people and how they responded to him,” says Benjamin. “I have the feeling most people were very receptive to sitting down and talking to Louie.”
Benjamin, a fourth-generation police officer in the Fulton family, says his own decision to pursue a career in law enforcement was greatly influenced by Louie.
“In law enforcement you have to have two things to be a really good officer – ethics and morals – and I think that’s what our family has passed through the generations, we were all raised the right way and I think that’s why we’ve all continued to stay in some form of law enforcement.”
The family’s law enforcement history began in the early 1950’s when Louie’s father, Eugene Fulton, became an Adams County Deputy under Sheriff Ben K. Perry. Perry was murdered after serving only one week in office, and Fulton was appointed to finish out his term. He would remain in office for 12 years with his teenage sons, Louie, Larry, and Dale working along side him.
Louie, who was 16 at the time, began to develop a real interest in law enforcement.
“We lived in the sheriff’s apartment above the jail,” he says. “My Dad had one deputy, but he didn’t have any paid dispatchers so I started dispatching for him because I was always there hanging around the jail. I guess it just got into my blood.”
Twenty years later he won his own bid for the Sheriff’s office, and subsequently served three terms, from 1973 to 1985.
While most of his time as Sheriff was taken up by daily routine tasks, he says he also had some extraordinary experiences – including being wounded in the line of duty and bringing serial killer Robert Dale Henderson to justice for the murder of an Adams County family.
“The best thing about being the Sheriff was that it gave me the opportunity to help people,” he says, but adds, “It could be dangerous at times – a lot of police officers are killed going out on calls – that always stays in the back of your mind.”
One case he says he will never forget – the murder of Billy Freeman in 1974 – which remains unsolved to this day.
“I can look out the window where I live now and see the woods where he was killed,” says Fulton. “I wanted to solve the case for his family, but we never found out who did it.”
After serving as the county sheriff for 12 years, Louie lost his final bid for the seat to Bob Johnson in 1985.
Shortly thereafter he took a Security Guard position at GE, but he found the transition to his new job difficult.
“When you’re sheriff you’re out there helping people, and when you’re a guard at GE your job is to keep people out, it was hard to get used to,” he says. “I didn’t like it at first because I was confined to one area all the time, but as sheriff you’re all over the county talking to people and helping them when they’re in trouble.”
He remained at GE for 15 years until a phone call from a former colleague convinced him to make a move.
“County Court Judge Alan Foster called me and wanted me to come to work for him in the courthouse as a bailiff,” he said. “My job was to bring the prisoners from the jail to the court and when the judge was finished with them I’d take them back to jail. I saw people come through the court that I’d arrested back when I was sheriff. They’d made a career of trouble.”
Fulton served as bailiff for 16 years before health issues forced him to retire.
Today he enjoys spending time in Las Vegas where he and his wife Sue have purchased a second home.
“There’s lots to see in Vegas,” he says. “It’s an exciting place and I like to show people the city when they come out to visit.”