September 1952: Two deputies killed while searching for illegal liquor

By Jennifer Cohron
Posted 9/20/19

Two Walker County Sheriff's deputies were killed in September 1952 while attempting to search for illegal liquor at a Jasper residence.Frank Harbison, 26, and Herman Treece, 47, were shot on Sept. 13 …

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September 1952: Two deputies killed while searching for illegal liquor

Posted

Two Walker County Sheriff's deputies were killed in September 1952 while attempting to search for illegal liquor at a Jasper residence.

Frank Harbison, 26, and Herman Treece, 47, were shot on Sept. 13 after they returned to the residence of Horace Bradberry on Airport Road. 

Harbison had served four years with the 8th Army in World War II. One year of his service was in the South Pacific. He was single but had planned to be married in a few months. He had been a deputy for about 18 months.

Treece had a wife and two children. He had been in law enforcement for about 20 years and had served as chief deputy under former Sheriff Grover Baggett.

Both were shot twice, according to an article in the Sept. 18, 1952 Mountain Eagle. Harbison died at the scene. Treece made his way to the highway, where he was picked up by a family from Birmingham and taken to People's Hospital. He died on the way.

Bradberry, who spent the night in the woods near his home while law enforcement searched in vain, was taken into custody the following afternoon after his family made arrangements with local authorities for his surrender. He was taken to the Jefferson County Jail at his request.

Four deputies, including Harbison and Treece, had visited the Bradberry residence earlier in the day, according to the article. A car sped away upon their arrival and the officers saw a bottle of whiskey thrown from the car window. The driver was arrested for speeding.

Treece and Harbison were shot when they went back to search for liquor.

Jasper Police Chief R.B. Scoggin was first to arrive at the scene. (Spellings of Scoggins and Coggin were also given in the article.) The hospital had notified him that an officer had been shot. 

The chief and Lt. Frank Lester went to the Bradberry residence, where they found Harbison in the yard. Bradberry's 12-year-old son told the men that his father had shot the two officers when they started to search the house.

Officers and citizens alike searched through a rainy night. Bloodhounds were brought up from Montgomery to aid in the search. 

Bradberry eventually surrendered to Coroner Porter White, Bill Carmichael and C.A. Richardson at the old South Lowell Cemetery. The terms for surrender were that Bradberry be taken to the Jefferson County Jail, that Carmichael go with White to meet him and that no officers be present. 

Bradberry was reported to be unarmed and exhausted when he was taken into custody. Meanwhile, the group of people searching continued without the knowledge that he had agreed to give himself up. 

Bradberry barely evaded being captured during the night. At one point, one of the dogs came to the tree where he was hiding and he got down and petted it until it went away. Bradberry was also close enough to the search party to hear their voices.

At another point, a group of men in a car saw him and shined a light in his direction. Bradberry said that he placed his shotgun against a tree and stepped out with the intention of giving himself up, but the men drove away. He then went to a relative's house, where he had breakfast.

Bradberry was married and had five children. He had also served in the Navy for slightly more than a year during World War II. 

A special session of the Walker County Grand Jury met on Sept. 22 and indicted Bradberry for first degree murder. 

The names of Harbison and Treece are among the 10 on the fallen officers monument located near the Walker County Courthouse. 

Two names have been added to the monument in recent years. 

In 2016, the name of Walker County Sheriff's deputy Ben F. Barrett was added. 

Barrett was killed in July 1920 during a dispute over unionism in Carbon Hill. Two miners, including Barrett's killer, also died in the encounter, and an 18-year-old bystander was shot.

A relative of Barrett's contacted then-Sheriff Jim Underwood after discovering newspaper reports of the incident while doing genealogy research.

In 2017, the name of Jasper Police Officer James D. Hobbs was added. Hobbs, a member of the Jasper Motor Patrol, was struck near the intersection of Viking Drive and Highway 118 in April 2003. He was thrown approximately 40 feet from the point where a Cadillac ran a red light and collided with his 1995 police-package Kawasaki motorcycle.

The driver of the Cadillac was charged with driving under the influence.

Hobbs suffered a broken arm, broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a traumatic brain injury from which he never recovered.

Hobbs died in December 2014. 

This week, Attorney General Steve Marshall recognized five officers killed this year at the 20th annual Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Summit. They were Sergeant WyTasha Lamar Carter of the Birmingham Police Department, Officer Sean Paul Tuder of the Mobile Police Department, Officer William Ray Buechner Jr. of the Auburn Police Department, Deputy Julius Jamal “Jay” Dailey of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department and Jake, a police K9. Officer Dornell Cousette, who was killed on Monday, will be honored at next year's summit.

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.