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Hubert Stone, former Robeson sheriff, dies
[February 12, 2008]

Hubert Stone, former Robeson sheriff, dies

(Fayetteville Observer, The (Fayetteville, NC) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Feb. 12--LUMBERTON -- One of Robeson County's most politically influential sheriffs, Hubert Stone, died Monday morning after an extended illness.

Mr. Stone, 78, died at Southeastern Hospice House in Lumberton, according to relatives. His brother, Billy Stone, declined to comment.

Mr. Stone was sheriff at a contentious time in the county's history and was embroiled in controversy surrounding his department including allegations of nepotism, corruption and excessive force by his deputies.

In February 1988, American Indians Eddie Hatcher and Timothy Jacobs walked into The Robesonian newspaper office carrying shotguns and held 20 people hostage for 10 hours. The men said they took the hostages to call attention to widespread drug trafficking and local corruption. They implicated Mr. Stone in corruption and drug-running. The charges were never substantiated after an investigation by state and federal officials.

Two years earlier, Mr. Stone was criticized by some residents after the death of a Fairmont man who was shot by Mr. Stone's son during a traffic stop. His son, Kevin Stone, was a narcotics agent with the Sheriff's Office at the time. An SBI investigation exonerated Kevin Stone.

Despite the controversies, Mr. Stone served as sheriff for four consecutive terms. He was first elected in 1978 and retired in 1994.

Mr. Stone started his career in law enforcement as an officer with the Rowland Police Department in 1953. He became police chief in Fair Bluff in 1954 and served three years. In 1957, he joined the Robeson County Sheriff's Office.

Former Robeson County Commissioner Sammy Cox worked with Mr. Stone during his tenure as sheriff.

"I thought he was a great sheriff, and he did a wonderful job for Robeson County," Mr. Cox said.

Mark Locklear, Mr. Stone's former chief of detectives, said Mr. Stone remained focused during the rough times at the Sheriff's Office.

"With any elected official, you have those who are supportive of you and those who are not supportive," he said. "Often those who are nonsupportive speak a little bit louder, and they get more attention. When those controversies came to light, he stayed the course."

Mr. Stone also was committed to ridding the community of illegal alcohol and drugs, Mr. Locklear said.

"Those were the poisons that came to the area that he had to deal with, and he dealt with it effectively," he said.

Mr. Locklear said he had lost a dear friend.

"Knowing him like I knew him, he would expect everyone to continue on with life; that he had done all that he could do and enjoyed both his time in law enforcement and his retirement," Mr. Locklear said.

Mr. Stone had a huge effect on local and state politics throughout his tenure. Bo Biggs, a Robeson County political observer, recalls state and local politicians flocking to Mr. Stone for his support.

"He was part of the generation of the good old boy network and the era where a sheriff commanded huge political power in the county," he said. "Even the governor sought the sheriff's endorsement. "

Mr. Stone's tenure as sheriff was clouded with accusations of racial disparity in hiring and corruption, he said.

"Obviously, there were a lot of good things in his administration, but the rumors of high-power people not being arrested for drugs and corruption still dogged Hubert," Mr. Biggs said. "Then there was always the issue of nepotism. There was a storm of things that happened during his reign. All sheriffs have their controversies, but he really had his share."

Garth Locklear, a retired detective who worked for Mr. Stone for eight years, said people related to Mr. Stone and that he was well-liked in the community.

"He could go places where others couldn't, and he knew the leaders in every community," he said. "He had that kind of personality and knowledge to get out there and get to know people. That was his strong point. People from all walks of life -- governors, lieutenant governors -- they sought him out. He was perhaps one of the best known lawmen in Robeson County history and one of the best politically connected, other than Sheriff Malcolm McLeod."

Garth Locklear described Mr. Stone as a star law enforcement officer.

"He was one of the most talented officers I have worked with," Garth Locklear said. "He had the type of personality that the most dangerous person to the head of the church liked him. He treated them with dignity and respect."

Mr. Stone retired in 1994 to pursue a job as a U.S. marshal. Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Rose recommended him to the Clinton administration, but it felt Mr. Stone did not have enough experience.

"I always thought he was qualified," Mr. Rose said. "I was very disappointed that he didn't become a U.S. marshal."

Mr. Rose, who knew Mr. Stone for more than 30 years, said he was a committed law enforcement officer.

"He was a tough sheriff, and Robeson County is not an easy place to be sheriff," Mr. Rose said.

"I wish his family well. They are in my prayers."

Mr. Stone came out of retirement in 1998 to run against Glenn Maynor. Mr. Maynor, who was the incumbent, defeated him by an overwhelming margin. He remained active in local politics after his retirement.

Al Parnell, who served as Mr. Stone's chief deputy, said his death is a great loss to the county.

"I think Robeson County has lost a very outstanding person, and he served the Sheriff's Department very well and he served as sheriff very well," Mr. Parnell said.

A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Rowland Cemetery.

Mr. Stone is survived by his wife, Eloise Day of Lumberton and three children, Sharon Stone McGirt of Charlotte; Donald Kevin Stone of Winchester, W.Va.; and J. Keith Stone of Rocky Mount; four stepchildren; five grandchildren; eight step-grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Staff writer Venita Jenkins can be reached at [email protected] or (910) 738-9158.

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