Former Saline County Sheriff and Treasurer Clifton Jones, 90, died Sunday at the Carrier Mills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Last Tuesday afternoon after the 9/11 Patriot Day services there he gave an interview about his time as sheriff in the 1960s.
Elected in November 1966, he took office the following month and became the last sheriff to live in the old county jail on East Poplar Street.
"We lived in that jail for 38 months," he recalled before the new courthouse and jail on the square were finished in December 1969. "We lived there and took care of the jail."
The department had just two deputies at the time plus an office deputy. His wife served as jailer. Compared to today it was a modest affair.
"The jailer was the turnkey. There was a place available for two dollars in, two dollars out. She received money locking them up and locking them out," he recalled. His wife June died in February last year.
"We booked them and locked them up until they were released," he said.
Everett Cooper served as dispatcher and Eva Brown worked as office deputy.
"She'd also (worked) if we had a female inmate or had to (transport) one, and she took care of the office."
When asked about the biggest events that happened during his time he had to pause as he thought back about his "hard cases."
The biggest one was a drug case that found $32,000 worth of marijuana.
"What happened in that case, the boy that was involved in it was stashing it away in grandma's barn, and grandma called us and turned him in," he said. "Marijuana was just hitting it big."
That may have been the case from June 1970 when he and the late Jack T. Nolen, then still a detective with the Illinois State Police confiscated 30 pounds of marijuana from the southern part of the county. Newspaper reports at the time "said the weed was intended for sale in Chicago and Cook County."
He also recalled a major gun case.
"There was a big shipment of guns that was delivered to gun dealers," he said. "At one time I had 100 guns that I had recovered and released."
One of the those cases involved the theft of 15 guns, including a German-made machine gun from Naugle's general store at Harco. Mount Vernon police arrested the two teens involved in that case from November 1967.
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The following month he suffered his first jail break on Christmas Eve. His son Lindell Jones who sat in on the interview said the inmates threw a liquid in his face and grabbed his gun.
"I had quite an experience. Some days you'd laugh. Some days you'd cry," he said.
Although the nursing home had a ceremony honoring its veterans who were residents Jones was bedridden at that point and did not feel up to it. He talked about his service in the 89th Infantry where he served as corporal laying field wire along the German Autobahn.
The local draft board called his number, 11,222, in July 1944, as one of 59 Saline County men called up for duty that day with orders to report to Chicago. By the following February the paper reported this his wife had "received word that her husband, Pvt. Clifton Jones has arrived in France."
Overall he served in uniform from Aug. 1, 1944, to the end of December 1945.
Funeral services are 1 p.m. Thursday at Reed Funeral Chapel with military graveside rites to be conducted by the Harrisburg and Carrier Mills American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and National Guard. Visitation is 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday.