The Constable’s Corner:  Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville

Front Page, History, Law Enforcement

Hello everyone!  We have had a busy first half of 2017 here at Pct. 2, from uniform changes (going back to Stetson hats), policy changes, continuing peace officer education classes, upgrades to our technology systems, new web site, new Facebook page, the day-to day services my department provides, our community policing programs, and our hugely successful “Pray for Police” wristband giveaway. All of these successes were not possible without the dedication of my officers, administrative staff, and the ever-growing support I receive each day from the citizens of Pct. 2.  Thank you from all of us at NCCO Pct. 2.

The Constable’s Corner

Yes, it has been a while since my last publication.  This month’s focus is on the Texas State Prison at Huntsville, Texas.

       A few months ago, I attended Constable’s School at Sam Houston State University.  During that week, which was crammed full of lectures and training, I got a tour by a Captain of the Guards of the prison.  The University is located right next to the prison and right in the heart of town.  I got to see the Walls Unit, Death Row, Educational Unit, Recreational Unit, and the Leather Shop.  Most interesting to me was the stories – the old stories – which is where I begin in this month’s Corner.

     The prison is officially the Huntsville Unit.  The prison’s red brick walls led to the nickname “Walls Unit”. The prison’s first inmates arrived in October 1849.  Originally, women in the Texas Prison System were housed in the Huntsville Unit.  Beginning in 1883, women were housed in the Johnson Farm, a privately owned cotton plantation near Huntsville.  The Huntsville Penitentiary was the only prison in the eleven Confederate states still standing at the end of the Civil War, at which time it entered a dramatic period of its history. The increase in lawlessness that accompanied the end of the war resulted in more persons being sentenced to prison.

Famous Escape Attempts from the Walls Unit 

       In January 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow hid guns in the field for their friends, Joe Palmer and Ray Hamilton.  These guns led to the death of J. Crowson, the first correctional officer killed in the line of duty.  The prisoners who were caught received the death penalty for the killing of Officer Crowson.  For Bonnie and Clyde, this was the last straw for them.  This eventually resulted in their deaths in a hail of automatic gunfire in a Louisiana ambush.

Old Sparky (Photo provided by Mitchell Clark)

     Whitey Walker was the leader of probably the most successful bank robber in Texas during the 1930’s, the Whitey Walker Gang.  They were much better than Bonnie and Clyde because Whitey subscribed to the John Dillinger school on robbing banks……..plan, plan, and plan.  The Barrow Gang had no planning, no escapes routes planned.  They just walked in, robbed the bank, and left.  The problem was that most of the time the banks they robbed had no money due to the Great Depression.

Various devices used to restrain inmates over the years (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Clark)

     While in the Walls Unit, Whitey Walker wanted his dear friend, Blackie Thompson, to be saved from the electric chair.  This also included death row inmates Joe Palmer and Raymond Hamilton of Bonnie and Clyde fame.  Walker had guns smuggled into the prison with the help of a guard.  A huge gunfight ensued between the guards, and the convicts as the prisoners were climbing a ladder trying to get over the wall.  Walker was killed by Guard Roberts.  The three prisoners made it over the Wall to an awaiting getaway vehicle. 

     In 1974, the prison was the site of an eleven-day siege, one of the longest hostage-taking sieges in United States history. Three armed inmates (Fred Carrasco, Ignacio Cuevas, and Rudy Dominguez) held several hostages in the education department. The ring leader, Carrasco, had been a porter in the chapel. Cuevas usually worked in the inmate dining hall. Ten hostages were employees of the prison system; two were educators, and one was a guard.  Even the prison chaplain, Catholic priest Joseph O’Brien and four prisoners were taken hostage. On the final day, the inmates tried to escape using chalkboards and hostages as shields.  Dominquez was killed in the attempt. Carrasco killed Elizabeth Beseda, a teacher, then shot himself.  Julia Standley, the librarian, was also killed that day. Ignacio Cuevas was executed on May 23, 1991, for Standley’s murder. I am told by jailers from the Sheriff Johnny Mitchell days that Carrasco was a prisoner at the Nueces County jail and was transferred from Corpus Christi to Huntsville.

     One of my favorite stories is that of Dr. B.W. Jones. Dr. Jones was an intellect, a professor of psychology with an I.Q. higher than the sun and a true photographic memory. In 1955, Dr. Jones so impressed the warden with his background and intellect, he was immediately hired as a lieutenant of the guard, rose to captain, and eventually became Assistant Warden.  Captain Jones set out to change the way prisoners were treated, instituting a rewards for good behavior system, sensitivity training, and treating prisoners in a way they were not used to.  Capt. Jones was a big guy, six feet and 300 pounds, and he would get in any inmate’s face – even when threatened with violence – and calm the situation.  The convicts couldn’t figure him out, and his guards thought he was either very brave or crazy.

     Then a funny thing happened.  A prisoner was reading in Life Magazine about a man named Ferdinand Waldo Demara.  He showed the picture to the guard and said, “Doesn’t this guy look just like Cap’n.   Jones?”  The Warden confronted Jones about the picture.  He denied it, went into a tirade, gathered his belongings, left, and was never to be seen in Texas again.

Ferdinand Waldo Demara (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

     Demara was one of the biggest impostors the world had ever known.  He could speak nine languages and could read and remember 5 books a night.  He impersonated a surgeon (doing actual surgery), a monk, psychologist, lawyer, teacher, minister, dean at college, engineer, zoologist and – yes – a warden in the Texas Prison at Huntsville.

Other Notable Huntsville Inmates

John Wesley Hardin:  One of the most notorious outlaws and killers in Texas; said to have killed 42 men;  sent to Huntsville in 1877 for 25 years but was released in 1894 and was subsequently gunned down by the Constable in El Paso in 1896.

Duane “Dog” Chapman:   Served 18 months for a murder in 1976; well known for his top hit reality show, “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

David Crosby:   Sentenced to 5 years for drugs and weapons in 1983; began serving in 1986 and was paroled 5 months later; famed lead singer for rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Semper Fi,

Constable Mitchell Clark

Learn all about your constable by going to his new web site: ConstableMitchellClark.net and FaceBook @ Nueces County Constable Precinct 2

 

References:

Time Magazine, 1974

Wikipedia, “Huntsville”

The Wall, Patrick McDonnan

Texas Prison Museum

Constable Clark is the duly elected official for the Pct. 2 Constable’s Office. He has been involved in the Nueces County Constable operations since 1981 and holds a Masters Peace Officers license from the State of Texas. He is a licensed attorney in Texas and Tennessee and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a former Marine with assignments as a military policeman with a specialty in corrections and as highly prestigious Marine Corps Drill Instructor @ MCRD San Diego. Constable Clark knows the law.

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FBBA Spotlight Business of the Month: 1st Community Bank

Business, Community Organizations, Flour Bluff

 

     Assistant Bank Manager Elva Steiner of 1st Community Bank accepted the Spotlight of the Month award from Flour Bluff Business Association president, Jennifer Welp, at the regular FBBA meeting held April 12, 2017, at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  First Community Bank is a traditional community bank. Their employees are shareholders of the bank, which means they have a personal interest in creating satisfied customers. Deposits are reinvested in homes and businesses right here in South Texas, helping families and business owners succeed.  “1st Community is committed to this community,” said Steiner.

     According to the company website, “First Community Bank first opened in Alice in 1983. During the next three decades, First Community has grown to include banks in Kingsville, Portland, Padre Island, Rockport and Victoria. Our headquarters and Home Loan Center are in Corpus Christi. We are rooted in South Texas, and we know, understand and serve the residents and businesses of the Coastal Bend at nine convenient bank locations.”

     For more information about 1st Community Bank, visit the Corpus Christi / Padre Island Officers Miles Graham or Elva Steiner at 14254 South Padre Island Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas, or call (361) 949-9310.  The bank lobby is open Monday through Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  The drive-thru hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Other FBBA Business

    The FBBA welcomed newly elected Pct. 2 Constable Mitchell Clark as the keynote speaker.  Constable Clark outlined some of his new programs, such as Walk with the Constable and Talk with the Constable, as part of the changes he is making in his department.  “We want to get out into the community and connect with the citizens,” said Clark.  The constable will be speaking to the residents of Flour Bluff at the Flour Bluff Citizens Council meeting on April 17, 2017.  (Watch for a separate article on Constable Mitchell Clark and his plans for the community.  He is a regular contributor to The Paper Trail News, as well.

     Jeremy Watts of HEB Plus in Flour Bluff invited everyone to take part in the Annual Earth Day clean up of Waldron Road.  The event takes place from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, 2017.  “HEB will supply bags, trash pickers, and water and fruit for the volunteers.  We will also have a DJ playing music.  HEBuddy will be on site, too,” said Watts.  “We’re looking for another great year for our Earth Day event.”

      In conjunction with the Earth Day event, the FBCC, with the help of District 4 Councilman Greg Smith and City of Corpus Christi Solid Waste Director Lawrence Mikolajczyk, have secured four Litter Critter bins.  The theme is “Beautify Your Block.”  The FBCC encourages all citizens to take part in both large and small ways.

  • Grab a couple of trash bags and ask a neighbor to help you walk your block and pick up the trash.
  • Join HEB and the Flour Bluff Business Association to clean up Waldron Road.
  • Help an elderly or disabled neighbor do some spring-cleaning.
  • Get a group together to clean a neighborhood park.

     The Litter Critter will be available on Saturday, April 22, 2017, to drop off brush and bulky items from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Volunteers will be available to assist with drop offs.  Anyone interested in helping with the program should contact the Flour Bluff Citizens Council at fbcitizenscouncil@gmail.com. Everyone is asked to adhere to the rules concerning what may be placed into the bins.  Prohibited items include: appliances, tires, household hazardous waste, construction materials, dead animals, flammable or hazardous materials, ammunition, asbestos. Household hazardous waste consists of items such as anti-freeze, solvents, brake fluid, transmission fluid, batteries, cleaning solvent, polishes, oven cleaner, pool chemicals, paint, paint thinner, paint stripper, spray paint, weed killer, pesticides, insecticides, sprays, dusts, poisons, gas, motor oil and filters. Construction materials are defined as sheet rock, shingles, lumber, fencing, concrete, brick, rocks, stones, dirt, soil.

       County Commissioner Brent Chesney gave an update on the sale of the 1914 Nueces County Courthouse.  In an April 12, 2017, report from KRIS Channel 6 News, “Nueces County Commissioner signed a real estate contract with an Ohio-based development group for $1,000. However, the group will have to pay $1.5 million is back taxes.  The group has a track record of successful projects, for example, they turned a 1930’s 12-story hotel into a loft-style apartment in Canton, Ohio. Though it is still early in the acquisition process, the group already has some ideas as to what they want to do with the building. The plans is to turn the building into a hotel. The group says they plan to leave old courtrooms intact, and possibly turn one room into a main dining area and another into a lobby area. It will take about six to seven months of planning and work with the Texas Historical Commission before plans are finalized. The group says the construction process is expected to take about 20 months.”

 

May 10, 2017 General Meeting:  Keynote speaker will be USS Lexington Executive Director Rocco Montesano.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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The Constable’s Corner: The Texas Constable

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History

     Texas Constables go way back in Texas history.  In 1823, the first Constable was appointed to be the first law enforcement officer in the future Republic of Texas and eventually the State of Texas.  His name was Thomas Alley.  In 1836, The Constitution of the Republic of Texas set forth an election for constables.  During the ten years of the republic’s existence, 38 constables were elected in twelve counties, the first being Nacogdoches County.

     When Texas became a state, the Texas Legislature passed a law saying the constable would be the “conservator of the peace” and added it was his duty to suppress all riots, routs, affrays, fighting, and unlawful assemblies. The constable was to keep the peace and arrest all offenders.  Due to the Civil War, no constables were elected from 1869 to 1872. The Texas Constitution of 1876 mandated that all constables be elected at the precinct level. Thus, all Texas Constables became constitutional office holders elected by the people.  In 1954, a constitutional amendment required all constables to be elected to a 4-year term instead of two.  This is the case today.  The Texas Constable is a Texas Constitutional office holder.

     In Texas, constables and their deputies are fully empowered peace officers with county-wide jurisdiction, and in most cases, state-wide jurisdiction.  Constables have the same training requirements as all other peace officers in the State and the same — and sometimes more — continuing training requirements.  The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) licenses all peace officers in Texas, and the constable and his deputies fall under the jurisdiction of TCOLE along with all Texas peace officers.

     There is a popular myth that a Texas Constable is the only person who can arrest the governor or sheriff.  That’s simply not the case.  Further, Constables are authorized to make warrant-less arrests for any offense committed in their presence or view anywhere in the State of Texas, except some traffic violations not occurring in their county.  A Texas Constable may enforce all state and local laws in their county, including traffic offenses.

     The Texas Constable is commissioned by the Texas Governor as a Law Enforcement Agency.  Interestingly, the Constable is an associate member of the Texas Department of Public Safety.  The Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics consider the Texas Constable to be a “unique” peace officer.  According to the Handbook of Texas “Today, constables numbering approximately 780 are elected from precincts in most Texas counties. Their law-enforcement roles vary widely, but in general their police powers are no different from those of other peace officers in the state. Complete records do not exist, but the most recent estimate is that at least ninety-three Texas constables have died in the line of duty, including sixty-seven in the twentieth century.”

Pct. 2 Constable Mitchell Clark

     What does your Pct. 2 constable do?   Everything law enforcement.  We provide patrol, answer calls for service, work traffic, crowd control, special events such as the Flour Bluff football games and Beach to Bay, just to name a few.  My officers serve civil papers and criminal papers.  The Constable has always been known as the “people’s police department” meaning my office is a grass roots organization, and I – along with my staff – are always available to serve.  Just call or come on by the office. You do not have to go through layers to get to me for assistance.  I was elected and am here to serve you, the citizens of Pct. 2.

Semper Fi,

Mitchell Clark

Constable

Pct. 2 Nueces County  (The Pct. 2 Constable’s office is located at 10110 Compton Drive in Flour Bluff next to the post office. You can call @ 361.937.6306 or come on by;  my door is always open.)

 

 

Up Next……..”Who is this guy?”  (Did you know your constable is a licensed attorney, a former marine, and many other interesting things?)

Constable Clark is the duly elected official for the Pct. 2 Constable’s Office. He has been involved in the Nueces County Constable operations since 1981 and holds a Masters Peace Officers license from the State of Texas. He is a licensed attorney in Texas and Tennessee and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a former Marine with assignments as a military policeman with a specialty in corrections and as highly prestigious Marine Corps Drill Instructor @ MCRD San Diego. Constable Clark knows the law.

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The Constable’s Corner: Of Kings and Constables

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, History

Welcome to the Constable’s Corner.  This is the first in what will be a series of articles from Mitchell Clark, the duly elected Constable, Pct. 2, Nueces County, Texas, on various topics of interest which relate to the constable operations in Precinct 2. 

King Alfred the Great successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by the time of his death had become the dominant ruler in England. He reigned from 871-899 A.D. and is credited with establishing the first constables in Wessex.

     For the past four years, television audiences have been captivated by Vikings, a made-for-television series on the History Channel. Viewers have “witnessed” the bloody battles between the Vikings and the European monarchs that played out during the 8th century.  As the fifth season begins, viewers will get a glimpse into the life of Alfred, son of Aethwulf and grandson of Egbert (both kings of Wessex), a man who would one day be called “Alfred the Great.” This mighty king of Wessex changed his country forever.

     According to the BBC History site, aside from successfully running the Vikings out of Wessex, he built up the defenses of his kingdom, reorganized his army, built a series of well-defended settlements across southern England, established a navy for use against the Danish raiders who continued to harass the coast, and advocated justice and order and established a code of laws and a reformed coinage. “He had a strong belief in the importance of education and learnt Latin in his late thirties. He then arranged, and himself took part in, the translation of books from Latin to Anglo-Saxon.”  In addition, Alfred the Great established the office of constable, an office that exists today in some fashion all over the world – even in Nueces County.

     Historically, the title “Constable” comes from the Latin stabuli , which means “attendant to the stables, literally count of the stable” and originated from the Roman Empire.  The constable was the officer responsible for keeping the horses of a lord or monarch. The West European term “constable” itself was adopted, via the Normans, as konostaulos (Grand Constable) in the Komnenian and Palaiologan periods, when it became a high military office of dignity. The title was imported to the monarchies of medieval Europe, and in many countries developed into a high military rank and great officer of state.  Such was the case of the Constable of France (Connétable de France) who was the commander-in-chief of all royal armed forces and second to the king until Prime Minister Cardinal Richelieu abolished the charge in 1627.

Historically, a constable could also refer to a castellan, the officer charged with the defense of a castle. Even today, there is a Constable of the Tower of London.

     Later Roman administrative titles were used by Charlemagne in developing his empire.  The position of Constable, along with the similar office of Marshal, spread throughout the emerging states of Western Europe during this period.  In most medieval nations, the constable was the highest-ranking officer of the army, and was responsible for the overseeing of martial law.  Following Alfred the Great’s lead, the office of the constable was introduced in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066 and was responsible for the keeping and maintenance of the king’s armaments and those of the villages as a measure of protecting individual settlements throughout the country.

     The system of policing by unpaid parish constables continued in England until the 19th century.  In the London metropolitan area, it was ended by the creation of the Metropolitan Police by the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 and by the County Police Constabularies outside London by the County Police Act 1839. Together these led to all counties having various constabularies of full-time professionals.

Early Constables in England serving a warrant
Early Constables in England serving a warrant

    Europe moved west, and the Constable became the keeper of the peace in Colonial America. David Johnson writes in his book, American Law Enforcement: A History, “More than 350 years ago, America’s first known system of law enforcement was established in Boston.  As soon as colonists had settled there in 1630, local ordinances had allowed for constables to be appointed. Soon after, in April 1631, the townspeople formed a “watch” made up of six watchmen, one constable, and several volunteers who patrolled at night, walking the rounds. 

     “Initially run by a combination of obligatory and voluntary participation, the 17th century watch typically reported fires, maintained order in the streets, raised the “hue and cry” (pursuing suspected criminals with loud cries to raise alarm), and captured and arrested lawbreakers. Constables had similar tasks, which included maintaining health and sanitation and bringing suspects and witnesses to court—frequently for such conduct as working on the Sabbath, cursing in public places, and failing to pen animals properly.”

Prohibition of Tobacco from The Code of 1650, Being a Compilation of the Earliest Laws and Orders of the General Court of Connecticut edited by Silas Andrus, 1830
Prohibition of Tobacco from The Code of 1650, Being a Compilation of the Earliest Laws and Orders of the General Court of Connecticut edited by Silas Andrus, 1830

     Interestingly, Constables can be found, even today, abroad in such places as Hong Kong, Denmark, Finland, Norway, United Kingdom, India, Channel Islands, Australia,  and Canada.

    In the United States, the role of a constable varied from state to state as the new nation formed.  Then, in 1823, the famous Texas Constable was born!

Up Next!……….Part Two

“The Texas Constable”

References:

  1.  Alastair, Bruce.  Keepers of the Kingdom. New York, NY: Vendome Press, 1999.
  2. “Constable,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 20 July 1998. www.britannica.com/topic/constable. Access date: March 6, 2017.
  3. “Constable.”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. www.en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Constable&oldid=767456104.  Access date: March 6, 2017.
  4. Johnson, David R. American Law Enforcement: A History. Wheeling, IL: Forum Press, 1981.
  5. Jones, A.H.M., ed. The Later Roman Empire 284-602. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 1964.
  6. Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press, 1991.
  7. Slater, Stephen. The Complete Book of Heraldry. London: Lorenz Books, 2002.

NOTE:  Nueces County Pct. 2 Constable Mitchell Clark can be contacted at the Nueces County Building in Flour Bluff, located at 10110 Compton Road, Corpus Christi, TX 78418.  361.937.6306    Constable Clark’s door is always open.  He is there to serve you!

Constable Clark is the duly elected official for the Pct. 2 Constable’s Office. He has been involved in the Nueces County Constable operations since 1981 and holds a Masters Peace Officers license from the State of Texas. He is a licensed attorney in Texas and Tennessee and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a former Marine with assignments as a military policeman with a specialty in corrections and as highly prestigious Marine Corps Drill Instructor @ MCRD San Diego. Constable Clark knows the law.

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