Pike County sheriff fills bronze shoes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 28, 2002

Features Editor

Filling the shoes of a legendary sheriff is never easy.

Around Montgomery County, Ohio, residents believe it will be almost impossible to fill the shoes of longtime Sheriff Gary Haines, who died of cancer April 6, 2000.

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But, in Pike County, Sheriff Russell Thomas had no trouble at all filling the sheriff’s shoes. In fact, he filled his entire law enforcement uniform as well.

Thomas was asked by Brundidge sculptor Larry Godwin to be the model for the life size bronze statue of the late sheriff of Montgomery County.

Godwin was commissioned to do the statue by the same Dayton group who commissioned him for the 1905 Wright Flyer project.

The Wright Brothers perfected their original 1903 flying machine at Huffman Prairie near Dayton. The 1905 flyer flew for longer periods of time, flew further distances and with much better control than the earlier model and was worthy of a bronze place in the city’s newly developed Riverscape project.

Midway through the "flyer project," Godwin was contacted about being the sculptor for the Sheriff Gary Haines’ project.

Godwin was pleased about the project and fascinated by the man.

"I know only what I’ve been told about Sheriff Hines, but I’ve been told enough to know that he is deserving of this long lasting recognition," Godwin said. "He worked extensively with children’s groups and supported all efforts and projects that the involved the young people of Dayton and Montgomery County.

"The sheriff was very active in promoting the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). His department confiscated drug dealer’s cars, painted them to look like police cars and used them in parades and at schools as examples."

Godwin said, in addition to Haines’ being highly acclaimed for his work with young people, he was well liked and respected in his home county and throughout the state.


statue will stand in front of the Haines Family Center and many of those who pass that way will have known the legendary sheriff.

"I want the statue to be as much like Gary Haines as possible," Godwin said. "I have photographs which I will use to create a likeness of the sheriff. I’ve done a mockette of the statue which will include a little girl and a boy about 12 years old."

Godwin was able to "free-wheel it" on the mockette, but, for the life size bronze to be "convincing," he needed live models.

"I wanted to see the lifelike quality of the anatomy to make it more convincing," the artist said. "And, the way the sheriff’s uniform hung on him – the folds, the wrinkles -everything is important in creating a real likeness of a person."

Godwin was allowed to use Haines’ uniform for his work and who better to model that uniform of

Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas, who is about the same size and the same body type of the Montgomery County sheriff.

"I wanted a little girl in his arms and a young boy beside him," Godwin said. "Sheriff Thomas has a little girl, Katie, just the age I wanted and Deputy Frank Wheeler has a grandson, Gerald Adams, who is about 12 years old. They all agreed to model for this statue."

Haines never liked to wear a hat, so Gerald wore the sheriff’s hat during the modeling session.

"I would guess that Sheriff Haines often let children wear his hat and blow his whistle," Godwin said. "Gerald wore the hat and blew the whistle and that gave a very ‘convincing’ look to the model."

The stance of the models was most important.

As they assumed their stances, Godwin noticed the extra weight of holding his daughter caused Thomas to lean slightly.

"That and other things helped me to achieve a lifelike statue," Godwin said. "I may have Gerald come back wearing a heavy jacket or vest which will be more convincing than lightweight clothing for Ohio youngster."

Godwin has invited Haines’ wife to come to Brundidge and be involved in the project.

"She could have some very valuable suggestions that would help make this statue even more lifelike," Godwin said.

If Mrs. Haines does come to Brundidge, she will probably want to meet the Alabama sheriff who will be filling her husband’s shoes for many generations to come.