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MailTribune.com
  • Sheriff Singler's Legacy

    A century after his death, the story of slain lawman passed through generations
  • Diana Maddox Walker gently lifts a carefully folded white cotton shirt with dark pinstripes out of a box.
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    • The Singler Family: An Athletic Heritage
      The plaza between the Jackson County Jail and Circuit Court building is named in August Singler's honor.
      Many of his descendants, too, have secured their own place in Medford history, particular...
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      The Singler Family: An Athletic Heritage
      The plaza between the Jackson County Jail and Circuit Court building is named in August Singler's honor.

      Many of his descendants, too, have secured their own place in Medford history, particularly on the playing field.

      August's son, Rudy, was an all-state quarterback for Medford High in 1921 and '22 when the local boys were known as the Pear Pickers. He was invited to play at Notre Dame for Knute Rockne but had to stay in the Rogue Valley to work.

      Rudy's son, Bill Sr., now known as Papa, helped Medford's football team win a state title in 1944 and was a lead player in basketball and an accomplished track athlete.

      Bill Jr. was on Medford's 1969 championship football team and set basketball scoring records, while his brother Ed led the 1977 football team to a state title. Bill Jr. and Ed went on to play football at Stanford and Oregon State, respectively.

      Ed's son Kyle, a South Medford graduate, was a standout with Duke University when it won the 2010 NCAA championships and now plays for the Detroit Pistons.

      Kyle's brother, E.J., just finished four years with the Oregon Ducks and hopes to either be picked up by the NBA or play overseas. His cousin Mitch red-shirted his freshman year for the Oregon State football team and is now a receiver in his junior year.
  • Diana Maddox Walker gently lifts a carefully folded white cotton shirt with dark pinstripes out of a box.
    "There's the bullet hole," she says, pointing to a hole the width of a pencil. "The bullet went in on my grandfather's left side, up through his lungs and lodged in his right ribs.
    "I wish I had gotten to know him," says Walker, 71, of Talent. "From everything I've learned about him over the years, he was a good man, a truly remarkable man."
    Jackson County Sheriff August D. Singler died on April 23, 1913, following a shoot-out with a wanted man in a rural cabin near Jacksonville. He was 36.
    Singler, who killed his adversary, was the first law enforcement officer and the only sheriff in Jackson County killed in the line of duty.
    He left behind his wife, Rose, and their eight young children, including eldest daughter Zita, then 8. She would grow up to become Zita Singler Maddox and Walker's mother.
    "My grandmother Rose was the one who really suffered," Walker says. "She raised all of their children by herself."
    Yet in all the years she knew her grandmother, who died in 1966, Walker recalls just once Rose saying anything even remotely close to a complaint.
    "She told me one time that her husband had been a lawman and sometimes he took chances," Walker says. "She wished he had thought about it a little more before he jumped right in.
    "But she said he was a law enforcement officer who was going to go out and do his duty no matter what," she adds. "She said if he had lived he would have been as famous as Wyatt Earp because of his exploits. He loved being a law enforcement officer."
    Singler is believed to be the first sheriff in Oregon killed in the line of duty, according to the Oregon State Sheriffs Association. The second was Umatilla County Sheriff Tillman D. Taylor, who was shot and killed during a jail break by five inmates on July 25, 1920. Three of the inmates involved were hanged; the other two were given life sentences.
    "A sheriff has always been the public lawman for citizens because they elected the sheriff," says C.W. Smith, a former Jackson County sheriff. "A sheriff represents a community. They speak to the strength of the community."
    And Singler spoke volumes, Smith says.
    "He was a very young man with a substantial family," Smith says. "For him to go do what he had to do in harm's way reflects his unswerving strength and bravery. He paid for it with the ultimate sacrifice."
    The man who stands tall in the annals of Oregon law enforcement was born May 28, 1876, in Millersburg, Ind.
    In 1901, he hitchhiked from South Bend, Ind., to Oregon to visit a brother and sister, according to family lore. The family patriarch went back to Indiana, then returned to Oregon in 1903 to find a place to settle.
    He wired Rose, pregnant with their fourth child, and told her to pack up the kids and hop on a train bound for Oregon. Meanwhile, he started working two jobs — selling patented medicines and working for the Singer Sewing Machine Co.
    "When he first moved to Oregon, he did whatever work he could find to feed his family," Walker says.
    He earned enough to buy three acres off Lozier Lane in Medford.
    Never mind there was no house on the property or that he knew little about carpentry. He rolled up his sleeves and began building a two-story house where the family would live for six years, Walker says.
    "He would study something and figure out how to do it," she says of her do-it-yourself grandfather. "After he saw the midwife deliver their first child, he delivered the other seven babies they would have."
    In 1909, he was appointed constable for the Medford District, then part of the sheriff's office. Like everything he did in life, he gave his new job his all, his granddaughter says.
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