Sheriff James Vardman Polk

Sheriff James Vardman Polk

Marion County Sheriff's Department, Mississippi

End of Watch Friday, April 22, 1960

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James Vardman Polk

Sheriff Polk was shot and killed from ambush while returning home. He and a deputy had returned to his home after arresting a woman for bootlegging following a series of raids.

As Sheriff Polk walked onto his porch he was shot by a man hiding in nearby woods. The deputy returned fire as the suspect fled. He threw the shotgun in a nearby creek which was later recovered. He was apprehended two days later in Hinds County.

The ensuing investigation revealed that the county's major bootlegger had hired the man to kill Sheriff Polk in retaliation for the sheriff's effort to clean up the county.

The suspect, 30, who fired the fatal shot was convicted of murder and sentenced to life. The bootlegger, 45, who hired him was also convicted of murder and sentenced to life. Both applied for a parole in 1970. Their outcomes are unknown. Two other men, 40 and 32, and two women, 30 and 40, involved in the plot to assassinate Sheriff Polk were all charged with murder. Both men were convicted of manslaughter and were sentenced to 10 years and 17 years respectively. The one serving 17 years got a new trial and was acquitted on December 7, 1962. The other man also got a new trial and was acquitted on February 6, 1964. The oldest woman was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years. A new trial on June 17, 1964, ended with a deadlocked jury. She was released in leu of a $10,000 bond. It is not known if there was a third trial. The other woman was convicted of manslaughter and received five years of probation.

Sheriff Polk had served with the agency for 8 years. He was known throughout the state for his aggressiveness in enforcing alcohol laws. He was survived by his wife and three children. His wife served the remainder of his term as sheriff and then was elected sheriff in 1962.


  • Age 52
  • Tour 8 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Shotgun; 12 gauge
  • Offender Sentenced to life

Most Recent Reflection

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Rest in peace Sheriff Polk.

Rabbi Lewis S. Davis

January 5, 2019

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