Wyatt Luther Nugent
|Wyatt Luther Nugent, Sr.|
|Sheriff of Grant Parish, Louisiana|
1928 – April 21, 1936
October 30, 1891|
Colfax, Grant Parish, Louisiana, USA
|Died||April 21, 1936
Grant Parish, Louisiana
|Spouse(s)||Lydia Ann Rosier Nugent|
Wyatt Luther Nugent, Sr., also known as W. L. Nugent (October 30, 1891 – April 21, 1936), was a sheriff of Grant Parish in north central Louisiana, who with a deputy, Delmer Lee Brunson, was slain in the line of duty. The crime, stemming from a dispute over the enforcement of the state's tick eradication law, is still considered the worst in Grant Parish history. Nugent, a Democrat, had been elected to a third term in the general election held on the day he was slain.
A former clerk of court in Grant Parish, Sheriff Nugent was the son of Matthew Columbus Nugent (1868–1955) and the former Lucy E. Walker (1873–1909). He was married to the former Lydia Ann Rosier (1895–1976), daughter of Dan E. Rosier. The couple had eleven children, deceased sons and daughters, Herschel, Herman, Harold, John, Lucy Hargis, Thelma King, Doris McGinty, and Frances N. Petrus (1927-2014), and surviving sons, as of July 2014, W. L., Jr., Herbert, and O. D. "Pop" Nugent. Frances Petrus was the widow of Alfred Joseph Petrus (1920-2009), a superintendent of water distribution for his native Shreveport prior to a political and legal dispute in 1977 with then Public Utilities Commissioner Billy Guin. Thereafter, Petrus worked in the private sector and was a long-term champion of veterans causes.
Details of the slaying
Nugent and Brunson were killed by Walter Johnson (born ca. 1894), a farmer from the Aloha community, who was charged with double murder in the slaying. After the murders, Johnson fled into the dense Lake Iatt swamp. Sam Johnson, Walter Johnson's 84-year-old father, was taken from Colfax, the parish seat, to an undisclosed place of incarceration and held under a $1,900 appearance bond as a material witness in the case. Louisiana state police and local law enforcement officers, armed with guns, tear gas, bombs, and bloodhounds, combed the wooded area where Walter Johnson fled.
The two Johnsons claimed that dipping cattle causes the animals to become ill. Sheriff Nugent came to serve an order from the 8th Judicial District Court upon Walter Johnson to compel him to have his animals dipped. Nugent and two other officers then began loading some of Johnson's cattle onto a truck to transport them to the dipping vat. Perched in a wooded area, Walter Johnson fired on the officers with a rifle. Brunson and Nugent were found an hour later. The Grant Parish coroner, Dr. J. H. Sandifer, determined that the pair was killed by No. 6 buckshot slugs fired from a shotgun. Walter Johnson was thought to have used a .30-.30 calibre rifle. It was then believed that Johnson had two weapons.
Bloodhounds brought from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola failed to pursue Johnson's trail because of heavy rains the previous night. The search was directed by Brigadier-General Louis F. Guerre, the commander of the Louisiana state police. Area sheriffs, including U. T. Downs of Rapides Parish, Bryant Sholars of Winn Parish, and Henderson Jordan, who had two years earlier participated in the capture of the bank bandits and murderers Bonnie and Clyde in his own Bienville Parish, headed posses of local citizens in searches of the region. The men found Johnson's truck near the scene of the shooting. Bloodhounds were unable to pick up the trail thereafter. The crime occurred after months of controversy between certain cattlemen and officers over enforcement of the tick eradication law. When finally captured, Walter Johnson was taken to a jail outside Grant Parish because of the fear that a mob might try to kill him.
Nugent died of two shots to the head; Brunson, of three shots to the body. A joint funeral was held for the officers at the First Baptist Church of Colfax, with the pastor, the Reverend D. L. Goodman officiating. The funeral party then traveled to Bethel Chapel Cemetery where Brunson, who was a deputy throughout Nugent's tenure as sheriff, was buried. Nugent was then interred at the Liberty Chapel Cemetery in the Williana Community in Grant Parish.
For a time after his death, Mrs. Lydia Nugent by appointment succeeded her husband as sheriff of Grant Parish. Similarly, four years later in 1940, after the death of Sheriff Eugene P. Campbell of Concordia Parish, his widow, Darlene Fuchs Campbell, served as sheriff until her own death eighteen months later on July 25, 1941. No woman was elected sheriff in Louisiana until 1999, when Beth Oakley Lundy, a Democrat, won the position in Calcasieu Parish with 51.5 percent of the vote cast in the nonpartisan blanket primary.
- "Sheriff Wyatt Luther Nugent, Deputy Delmer Lee Brunson [Killed]". libertychapelcemetery.org. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
- "Nugent Families of Liberty Chapel/Grant Parish". libertychapelcemetery.org. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
- "Frances Nugent Petrus". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- "Petrus v. Guin". leagle.com. December 3, 1979. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
- "Alfred Joseph Petrus". KTBS-TV. January 2009. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- "Mrs Campbell Died Yesterday: Splendid Lady of Vidalia Called by Death, Buried Yesterday", The Natchez Democrat, Natchez, Mississippi, July 26, 1941
- "First Woman Sheriffs in the United States of America". reocities.com. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- "Election returns: Calcasieu Parish, October 23, 1999". staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved July 25, 2014.