History of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office:
In 1669 the Province of the Carolina was divided into counties and according to the original charter, there “shall be a….Sheriff.” In 1729, seven of the eight Lord Proprietors sold their land interest to the Crown and the Carolina Province was officially divided into the Royal Colonies of North and South Carolina. In 1762, the Provincial Assembly granted a petition to form Mecklenburg County from the western part of Anson County and on February 1, 1763 Mecklenburg County was created.
Since the formation of the State of North Carolina and the creation of Mecklenburg County on February 1, 1763, colonial law required there to be a “High Sheriff” of the County. Many of the responsibilities and duties assigned to the Sheriff today can be traced back to Mecklenburg County’s first Sheriff, Alexander Lewis who acted as the executive and the enforcement arm of the courts.
For over 250 years, forty-five High Sheriffs have served the citizens of Mecklenburg County by carrying out their responsibilities of the serving civil processes, the execution of judgments, evicting of tenants who default on their payments, and the seizure of property. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff is also responsible for the operation of North Carolina’s largest municipal detention system, which provides safe, humane and professional detention services to those incarcerated and awaiting trial.
The Office of Sheriff is mandated in the North Carolina Constitution and the Sheriff serves as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the County elected by the citizens for a four-year term. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office in its scope and territorial jurisdiction which encompasses all of Mecklenburg County has full law enforcement authority to enforce criminal laws, traffic laws, preserve the peace, and to prevent and detect crime. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office does not take 911 calls for service but make no mistake about it; we are a law enforcement organization that actively enforces the law to keep the citizens of this great county safe.
Sheriff’s Office or Department – What’s in a Name?
Some often ask what’s the difference between a Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff’s Office? What’s the big deal anyway or is it just semantics? The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office believes wholeheartedly that there is a distinct difference in a Sheriff’s Department versus a Sheriff’s Office.
The Office of Sheriff is provided for by the North Carolina Constitution. Sheriffs occupy an elected office just like the Governor, Attorney General, or any other elected officers. Elected officers report solely to the citizens of their jurisdiction that elected them to serve.
In county government you’ll find many departments; the Health Department, the Department of Social Services and the Human Resources Department just to name a few. The head of each of these departments is not an elected official but an employee hired and supervised by the County Manager.
The Sheriff Office is distinctly different than any of the county governmental departments and it is an inaccurate characterization to refer to the Sheriff’s Office as the Sheriff’s Department due to these distinct differences, which is why we are appropriately titled as the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.
Past and Present Sheriffs
Garry L. McFaddenCurrent LeadershipGarry L. McFadden, the 45th Sheriff was elected in November 2018.
Irwin CarmichaelIrwin Carmichael, the 44th Sheriff was elected in November 2014. Sheriff Carmichael has written a book, Women’s Awareness Response, and has produced a child safety and abduction video, Kid’s Awareness Response.
Chipp BaileyChipp Bailey, the 43rd Sheriff was elected in February 2008. His personal mission as Sheriff was to work toward “…. building character, not jails.”
James I. PendergraphJames Pendergraph, the 42nd Sheriff was elected in November 1994. Sheriff Pendergraph implemented new training and recruiting requirements, established the Office of Professional Compliance (OPC), and under his leadership the Sheriff’s Office became North Carolina’s first nationally accredited jail system.
Chester Walton Kidd, Jr.Chester Walton Kidd, Jr., the 41st Sheriff was elected in November 1982. In 1991, he formed a Special Weapons and Tactics team along with a K-9 division despite a previous denial of
funding from the County Manager.
John Kelly WallJohn Kelly Wall, the 40th Sheriff was elected in 1978. Prior to becoming Sheriff, he served in the Army Air Corps. After serving in the army he joined the Mecklenburg County Police Department where he attained the rank of Captain. At that time, he developed a Safety Patrol for the county school system and served as the Law Enforcement Coordinator for the Alcohol Safety Action Project, during which time he championed the use of the breathalyzer.
Donald W. StahlDonald W. Stahl, the 39th Sheriff was elected in November 1966. During his tenure, the new Mecklenburg County main jail opened in 1969. The facility was said to be extremely innovative, secure, and the first of its kind in Mecklenburg County. In August of 1971, Sheriff Stahl applied for $68,000 in federal funding to start a janitorial school for inmates in the jail to prepare inmates for employment once they are released from custody.
John Clyde HunterJohn Clyde Hunter, the 38th Sheriff was elected in November 1946. He was the driving force behind the construction of the Mecklenburg County Main Jail, which replaced the former jail housed on the fourth-floor of the historic courthouse. He won re-election in 1950, 1954, 1958, and 1962 for a total of twenty years. The second longest term of service for any Sheriff.
George Mack RileyGeorge Mack Riley, the 37th Sheriff was elected in November 1936. In 1915, he began his law enforcement career with the Charlotte Police Department, eventually rising to the rank of detective before resigning in 1923. He was elected in 1938 to the first four-year term and again in 1942. The term of office remains four years to the present day.
John Robinson Irwin, Jr.John Robinson Irwin, Jr., the 36th Sheriff was elected in November 1926. Immediately after taking office, Sheriff Irwin had issue with the outgoing Sheriff Cochran. Cochran moved
into a new office in the courthouse and took the tax books for Charlotte Township with him; an action that was met with resistance by Sheriff Irwin. He was re-elected in 1928, 1930, 1932, and 1934.
Wilbourn Onslow CochranWilbourn Onslow Cochran, the 34th Sheriff was elected in November 1898.
Nehemiah Wilson WallaceNehemiah Wilson Wallace, the 34th Sheriff was elected in November 1898. He served for 22 years, the longest term of any person past or present.
Zachariah Taylor SmithZachariah Taylor Smith, the 33rd Sheriff was elected in November 1888 and won four more elections in 1890, 1892, 1894, 1896. Prior to becoming Sheriff, he enlisted in the Confederate Army at the outbreak of the Civil War, in his case in the Junior Reserves because he was not yet 14 years old.
Thomas Sandifer CooperThomas Sandifer Cooper, the 32nd Sheriff was elected in 1887. Sheriff Cooper was the last sheriff to be responsible for collecting taxes. In December of 1888, the state legislature passed a law releasing all North Carolina Sheriffs from their duties of collecting taxes.
William Franklin GriffithWilliam Franklin Griffith, the 31st Sheriff was elected February 1886. He was referred to as “Ex – Sheriff” on 6 April of 1887, most likely because he had been elected chief of police. Eventually, he was also appointed as Chief of the Fire Department.
Lawson Alexander PottsLawson Alexander Potts, the 30th Sheriff was elected in November 1884. Prior to becoming Sheriff, he served during the Civil War and achieved the rank of Captain before retiring due to injuries he obtained during the war.
Marshall E. AlexanderMarshall E. Alexander, the 29th Sheriff was elected in August 1872. He was re-elected in 1874, 1876, 1878, and 1880.
Robert M. WhiteRobert M. White, the 28th Sheriff was elected in August 1862.
William Winfield Grier, Sr.William Winfield Grier, Sr., the 27th Sheriff was elected in August 1860. In 1868, he was elected to the North Carolina State House of Representatives and served until 1870.
Eli Clinton GrierEli Clinton Grier, the 26th Sheriff was elected in August 1854 and re-elected twice.
Thomas Neely AlexanderThomas Neely Alexander, the 25th Sheriff was elected in October 1838. The Charlotte Journal acknowledged him for his meticulous nature in tax collecting and the community appreciated him for his integrity and fidelity.
Joseph McConnaugheyJoseph McConnaughey, the 24th Sheriff was elected in August 1832 and the second to have been elected by the citizens instead of judges.
John SloanJohn Sloan, the 23rd Sheriff was elected in May 1825. The election for the office of High Sheriff transitioned from having judges as electors to that of a popular election. John Sloan was the first High Sheriff of Mecklenburg County to be chosen by the citizenry.
Samuel McCombSamuel McComb, the 22nd Sheriff was elected in May 1822. Samuel McComb discovered gold in 1825 and ten years later, he was appointed to select the site for, and supervise the construction of the Charlotte Mint.
James WilsonJames Wilson, the 21st Sheriff was elected in 1814 and held the office for eight years, more than any of the twenty other Sheriffs before him.
Andrew McBrydeAndrew McBryde, the 20th Sheriff was elected in February 1813.
George HamptonGeorge Hampton, the 19th Sheriff was elected in July 1809.
William BeatyThe second Sheriff to serve two non-consecutive terms.
John CookJohn Cook, the 17th Sheriff of Mecklenburg County was elected in July of 1804. According to an article published in The Carolina Gazette, High Sheriff Cook was murdered while executing the duties of his office after serving less than three months.
William BeatyWilliam Beaty, the 16th Sheriff was the first to transition from deputy to High Sheriff, as far as, historical records show.
Richard Barry, Jr.Richard Barry, Jr. was born in 1765 in Mecklenburg County. He became the 15th Sheriff in 1802 and served a one-year term.
James NeelJames Neel was the 14th Sheriff of Mecklenburg County. He was re-elected in July 1799 through his final term in 1801.
Richard RankinRichard Rankin, the 13th Sheriff was elected in July of 1795 and subsequently re-elected in 1796, 1797, and 1798.
William McReeWilliam McRee, born around 1762 was the 12th Sheriff of Mecklenburg County. He was elected to office in July of 1793 and retained the office until July of 1794.
Andrew AlexanderAndrew Alexander was the 11th Sheriff of Mecklenburg County. He was elected in July of 1791 and re-elected July of the following year.
George GrahamGeorge Graham, brother of Joseph Graham took office June of 1786 making him the 10th Sheriff.
Joseph GrahamJoseph Graham took office as the 9th Sheriff in July of 1783. He was a member of the first convention formed to consider the first Constitution of the United States.
Thomas HarrisThomas Harris was the first Sheriff to serve two nonconsecutive terms.
Ezekiel PolkEzekiel Polk served the shortest term as Sheriff of Mecklenburg County following the resignation of James White. He was also the grandfather of James Polk who would become the 11th President of the United States.
James WhiteJames White became the 6th Sheriff of Mecklenburg County on July 14, 1779. He resigned sometime prior to April 1782.
Thomas HarrisHe was the first to take office without the need for nomination to and appointment by a governor.
Adam AlexanderDuring his tenure as Sheriff he commanded the Mecklenburg militia during the American Revolution and signed his name on the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence along with the “Resolves”.
James WylieJames Wylie, the 3rd Sheriff was elected in 1768
Moses AlexanderHe served as a Colonel in the colonial militia and during his tenure as Sheriff he helped defeat the Rowan militia.
Alexander LewisThe first official Sheriff of Mecklenburg County.