Legal History

Granddaughter of lawman sets record straight on 1926 courthouse shooting

The way authorities and the local newspaper told the story at the time, two lawmen shot each other to death at a Virginia courthouse in 1926 because of a family feud.

But years of research by a granddaughter of one of the men, state inspector James Sherman Mullins, shows that wasn’t true. He was killed in the line of duty, as he tried to serve warrants on Sheriff Pridemore Fleming outside the Dickenson County Courthouse in Clintwood, the Roanoke Times reports.

It was the Prohibition era, and Fleming was believed by authorities to be protecting bootleggers. Mullins was among those charged with enforcement of the ban on alcohol.

The work done by Jenny Cooper, 73, persuaded the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Washington, D.C., to include Mullins among some 19,000 officers who died in the line of duty.

It also led to a memorial service for Mullins In June at the county sheriff’s office.

Among the attendees was Cooper’s mother—the only one of Mullins’ 13 children still living—Snoda Mullins Adkins Rawlings, 103. She was 16 when her brother drove in from town in a Studebaker to tell the family her father had been shot. Soon after they arrived at a local hospital to see him, he died, the newspaper recounts.

“My father was honest,” she said. “He put his whole life into his work. My father was a wonderful man.”

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