Anderson known for

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 7, 2000

soothing powers in crisis


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May 6, 2000 9 PM

Former Pike County Sheriff Harold Anderson is a man many people who knew him aren’t likely to soon forget.

Coming up through local law enforcement agencies, from Brundidge police officer to veteran sheriff, Anderson may be most well known to local residents because of the sheer length of his service to the community. But many people think his legacy runs much deeper that his status as an icon that represented Pike County law enforcement.

Anderson served the county as sheriff for 20 years from 1975 to 1995, plus worked as a Pike County deputy sheriff for an additional 12 years. He also was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and served as a police officer for the city of Brundidge before joining the sheriff’s department.

Over the years, Anderson built a reputation as someone who had a cool head in a crisis, said Billy Gibson, former Probate Judge and colleague of Anderson.

"He had this way of getting people who didn’t want to do things to do them," Gibson said. "It wasn’t because he was this gung-ho tough guy, but because people knew him and trusted him just as he knew them."

Anderson’s son, Glenn Thomas Anderson of Dothan, said his father’s philosophy of life has been instrumental not only in his life, but also in his career.

"His philosophy was that you needed to treat people with dignity," Glenn said. "Daddy taught me how to deal with life and how to deal with people using a gentle, subtle approach. I have seen him come into some very volatile situations and his presence resulted in a soothing effect."

Glenn, whose middle name came from his father’s brother who was killed at the age of 13, is a Human Resources employee in Dothan. He said is father’s lessons have been very important to him, in both choosing his line of work and in performing day to day business.

"He taught me a lot, and I believe that is reflected most in his approach to dealing with people," Glenn said.

Gibson said Anderson will always be someone whose laid-back style of kind-hearted, but often firm law enforcement tactics earned his respect.

"Harold was just a good guy," Gibson said. "He knew everybody and everybody knew him. He knew every road in the county and who lived in every house on each one of those roads. He knew their kids’ names and he liked the people. People respected him because they trusted him, not because he was out being a tough guy."

Anderson, often pictured wearing a cowboy-style sheriff’s hat, loved people, Gibson said and this love was often reflected in how he would handle some tough cases.

"There have been times when there would be a warrant out on someone who nobody seemed to be able to catch, and Harold would say, ‘I’ll get him in,’" Gibson said. "He might go call the person’s mother or grandmother or ride out and pay them a visit and talk to them. Most of the time when this happened, the person would turn himself in that very day or would be led in by his mother. It was such a simple to handle a sticky problem and it worked for Harold."

Glenn agrees that his father had an approach that was effective.

"I have seen him disarm someone in a situation that was very tense and then go and have a soft drink with the person he disarmed and iron out the hostility," Glenn said. "He wasn’t afraid of anything, but being brave didn’t mean striking people. He didn’t believe in it and he didn’t tolerate it, even when situations sometimes got ugly. He would only do something like this as a last resort when the safety of people was in question."

Anderson’s effectiveness would not have been as tremendous as it was, Gibson said, were it not for his personality and concern.

"He was brought up here and just knew everything there was to know about the county and the folks here," Gibson said.

Those who worked with Anderson describe him in much the same way.

"He was a tremendous law enforcement officer," says Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas who worked as a deputy for Anderson before running for sheriff. "He was a good teacher and he was always level headed. He knew how to handle people."

Anderson’s personality is described as warm and friendly and his laughter is something that sticks out in the minds of those who remember him well.

"We were a year apart and our families had known one another," said Gibson. "When I think of Harold, I remember a man who loved to laugh. He had a wonderful sense of humor."

Thomas, who has served as sheriff since Anderson’s decision not to seek another term in 1995, hopes that his mentor’s teachings and ideas about local law enforcement stay with the community.

"Harold was a great man to work for and I hope we can continue doing things the way he did," Thomas said. "He has big shoes to fill, I’ll tell you."