May 22, 2022

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Mother Ladd: Tennessee’s initial girl sheriff

8 min read

Lillie Ladd Mauser is pictured with her grandson, U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., in 1977.

This is the tale of the initial woman to serve as a sheriff in Tennessee. It’s a story that does not get place in Scott County, but a single that yet has solid ties to this area.

You see, Lillie Ladd — who was sheriff in Roane County — never even lived in Scott County. But, in a way, Scott County can assert her as just one of its possess. She was the grandmother of Scott County’s favourite son: U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr.

Born July 11, 1879, Lillie Matilda Cox was one particular of individuals girls who we sometimes refer to in this portion of Appalachia as “a tricky previous bird.” She survived a mastectomy at the age of 97, created her possess costume for her 100th birthday celebration, and was recognized as a ferocious bridge player until eventually the very stop of her everyday living.

And, when her husband was sheriff in Roane County, there was a jailbreak, and she produced countrywide headlines when she rounded up some of the escaped prisoners and returned them to jail.

When she died in 1981, while her grandson was the vast majority chief in the U.S. Senate and 1 of America’s most recognizable politicians, The Tennessean explained her as “the fast-witted grandmother of Sen. Howard Baker and a pistol-wielding fraternity housemother.” The Washington Submit explained her thusly: “To this day she has under no circumstances considered herself a feminist, and she may possibly consider correct now that you were calling her a little something hideous if you advised her which is what she was and is.”

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Born to Abraham Cox and Annie M. Davis Cox in Oliver Springs, Lillie married a different Oliver Springs resident, Chris Ladd (1876-1927) in 1898, at the age of 19. She invested most of her everyday living in Roane County, but eventually still left and grew to become the to start with housemother of the Lambda Chi fraternity at the College of Tennessee in Knoxville. There she acquired the nickname Mom Ladd. For the rest of her lifetime, the feisty lady was recognized through the point out as “Mother Ladd.”

The story of Mom Ladd’s brief tenure as sheriff is as vibrant as her everyday living was. In 1927, her partner had fallen unwell, and she experienced taken him to see a doctor in Illinois. When they achieved their destination, they been given a wire that all of the prisoners, about 20, had damaged out of the jail back in Kingston.

An everyday lady could possibly have prayed for her husband’s swift recovery so he could get on the trail of the escaped convicts. But Mother Ladd was no everyday girl. How dare the prisoners break out of jail when her partner was in mattress ill! So she caught the to start with practice again to Kingston to see to their capture herself.

“I assumed I understood about where by two of them would be for the reason that they lived up in the state,” she informed The Washington Article in 1980. “I bought a male to drive me in the automobile, up a nation street beside Walden’s Ridge. We went various miles, 10 or 15, I guess, and I observed two guys up on the facet of the mountain, and I understood it was them.”

Mother Ladd motioned for the men to appear down to her — “they knew it was me, they realized who I was,” she explained — but they ignored her. She persisted, driving the vehicle alongside the edge of the mountain and blowing her horn, until finally they lastly gave in.

“Now you sit down here boys and enable me talk to you,” she explained when the convicts had designed their way down the mountainside to her. “Listen, there are a lot of the deputies who would appreciate to get rid of you, and they’re up listed here scootin’ around in these mountains correct now, and they’ll eliminate you if you really don’t come back again with me to the jail.”

A person of the inmates explained, “I’m coming back with you.” So Mom Ladd reported, “Well, appear on and get in the motor vehicle.” And they did. The two of them.

After driving again down the mountain, Mother Ladd stopped in Harriman to wire her spouse. When she went inside of the Western Union, she remaining the men sitting down in the back seat, unguarded. “Because they experienced promised me they would remain there and go with me to the jail,” she stated.

As Mother Ladd was producing the telegram to her spouse, telling him that she experienced captured the two leaders of the escapees, the male behind the counter questioned where they had been. “They’re out there in the automobile, they promised me they won’t go away,” she reported. And he went out to see for himself.

Unbeknownst to Mother Ladd, the Western Union employee was getting notes. The future morning, there was a half-web page tale about the seize of the two escaped convicts in The Chattanooga Periods. Chris Ladd had go through about it right before his spouse experienced even returned property.

As the tale goes, phrase distribute that the two leaders of the escaped prisoners had been captured, and that brought on the some others to drift back again out of the mountains and return to jail in Kingston.

Mother Ladd was an immediate movie star. 

Chris Ladd was a effective logging contractor, and the few had been effectively off — so much so that they traveled usually, which include a journey to the Kentucky Derby each 12 months for 25 yrs.

By the time she rounded up the escaped convicts and gained celeb position, Mom Ladd was a center-aged grandmother. And she was shortly to be sheriff. 

Six months immediately after the excursion to Illinois, Chris Ladd died. Not forgetting her heroic actions in rounding up the leaders of the jailbreak, the Roane County Court requested the widow Ladd to provide out the remainder of her husband’s term. She did. But this Roane County grandmother was no Andy Taylor, strolling close to city without having a gun. She stored regulation and order with a .32 particular in her purse. And she was not frightened to use it.

For a few months, Mother Ladd and her deputies held the Roane County jail at comprehensive capability, primarily by arresting moonshiners and bootleggers. But she resolved to resign, stating that “it was not my calling.” Currently being sheriff was a rough work, and she had only taken the placement because of her spouse.

So, Mother Ladd took her .32 specific and grew to become a fraternity housemother at UT. They gave her a tiny area in the basement of the frat residence, the place there had been a challenge with burglars. Not long after she arrived, the burglar struck again.

In the 1980 profile in The Washington Article, Ladd described how the burglar took something from the refrigerator, then went creeping up the stairs to get all the boys’ watches and income. But when he came back again down the stairs and experimented with to get into Mom Ladd’s space, he was in for a shock. She was standing there with her .32 particular at the prepared.

“I just started off taking pictures right via the doorway,” she claimed. “Oh, how he scrambled. I did not know but what I experienced killed him. We identified splinters all through the space where by I experienced shot as a result of the doorway.”

The upcoming day, she said, “They have been providing papers on the streets in Knoxville that reported, ‘Extry, Extry, Housemother Shoots Burglar.’” 

There was by no means a further theft at the Lambda Chi fraternity residence as extensive as Mom Ladd was there.

Mother Ladd afterwards married Rhinehart Patrick Mauser, a Knoxville businessman, in 1941. But he died just 7 decades afterwards.

In her afterwards a long time, Mother Ladd moved to Maryville and started wintering in Florida.

Chris and Lillie Ladd had four youngsters. Tragically, only a person of them, daughter Myrtle, survived to old age. Their oldest son, Gillis, died when he was only two. Their youngest son, Joe William, died at the age of 9.

No speculate Mother Ladd was rough. You have to be to survive the tragedy she endured.

One of the Ladds’ two kids to survive to adulthood was daughter Doris Ann, who married Howard H. Baker Sr. in 1925. Baker was born in Somerset, but the Baker loved ones was originally from Campbell County. He had attended legislation university at the College of Tennessee and had graduated the previous 12 months. Howard and Doris moved to Huntsville, wherever Baker opened a law company. He was elected to the state legislature in 1929, later served on the Scott County Board of Schooling, was elected legal professional general, and lastly was elected to Congress in 1951. 

Doris Baker, nevertheless, died in 1934. 

Howard Baker Sr. would die in office environment in 1964. His next spouse, Irene Bailey, a Sevierville county formal who was active in point out Republican politics, was appointed to provide out the remainder of his expression in advance of a native Scott Countian, John J. Duncan Sr., was elected that exact yr.

The Bakers’ only youngster was Howard Henry Baker Jr., who would turn into the initial Republican to provide in the U.S. Senate from Tennessee considering that Reconstruction, and the very first Republican to ever be popularly elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. He immediately acquired the respect of his colleagues in Washington and rose to prominence. He was regarded as by President Richard Nixon for the U.S. Supreme Court docket and was considered by President Gerald Ford as vice president. Soon after a failed presidential bid in 1980, in which Baker was polling third guiding Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, he grew to become Senate Greater part Chief, a posture he served in right up until retiring from the Senate. He afterwards served as President Reagan’s White Household chief of staff members and is credited with encouraging to resurrect Reagan’s flailing presidency in its next expression. Baker was believed to be a prospect for president yet again in 1988, but serving as Reagan’s main of staff expended his political funds and he retired from politics for good — nevertheless he later served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan beneath President George W. Bush.

The Bakers created a Republican legacy, and they inherited their position as Republicans from the matriarch of the relatives, Mother Ladd. 

Mother Ladd admitted to The Washington Publish in 1980 that she had some ancestors in New England who had been Democrats. But she was a diehard Republican. Her father fought for the Union in the Civil War, and she was fond of indicating, “Thank God, he was on the winning aspect, the Republican side.”

When Baker ran for Senate, he told everybody about his grandmother and her exploits as sheriff again in Tennessee. He explained that she actually wanted him to follow in her footsteps. 

“She told me if I definitely wished to operate for president she would assist me, but she said, ‘Son, if you never run for president, operate for sheriff,’” he said in 1980.

Mom Ladd responded, “I didn’t say no this sort of a point. Howard Henry created that up.”

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