End of Watch: The Murder of Deputy Thomas Blount

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Walton County Sheriff’s Department, Florida

End of Watch Saturday, August 17, 1929

From the book, “Some Gave All,” coming soon on this website and on Amazon. By Mike Simmons

Deputy Thomas Blount

  Bear Head Community lies about five miles west of DeFuniak Springs, Florida. It is a beautiful rural community where fishing and hunting abound. A person who strolls through the densely wooded areas is in for a pleasant surprise. Found among the pines, junipers, and oaks bearded with Spanish moss, squirrels, rabbits, alligators, and snakes can be found on the ground which is composed mostly of white sand. And – as those who live there have discovered – if you wait long enough, white-tailed deer can be seen. In the ponds and creeks are bream, catfish, and bass waiting to be caught!  

Bear Head Community

Prohibition. It was a time in the history of the United States when an attempt was made to legislate morality. Many people in the nation were against the evils of alcohol, so the vote came up – and passed – to outlaw it. The goal was to stop the manufacture, sale, and consumption of all alcoholic beverages. Right. Never going to happen. Nevertheless, lawmen across the country were now tasked with the job of catching the lawbreakers. Those who continued to manufacture the beverage in secret by the moon’s shine, or those who sold it, or those who transported it. The manufacture and sales became a big business, and the transportation of it ushered in a whole new sport – stock-car racing.  

Deputies pose for a photo of a captured moonshine still

December 18, 1882 The town of Freeport, Florida lies about 15 miles south of Defuniak Springs, on the north shore of Choctawhatchee Bay. It’s an old waterfront and fishing settlement, having been around since about 1830.

James and Becky Blount had two little girls as they scratched out a living in Freeport. In 1882, they were greeted by little Tom, the newest edition of the Blount family. Two years later, the last child, another girl, would join the family[1].

As he grew into a young man, he noticed that good-looking Katie King. Soon he got up the nerve to ask for her hand, and on March 24, 1918, the two were married.

Tom spent most of his time working in the local store as a clerk. They had five children, so the clerk job didn’t seem to pay the bills. Tom was relieved when, in 1929, he landed a job as a deputy sheriff for the Walton County Sheriff’s Department.

He didn’t know them – the Nowling Brothers. He had only been a deputy for a few weeks. He was soon educated quickly in the rottenness of Matthew, William, and Albert Nowling. Albert was the leader and the worst of the lot. He was the brains that was running the illegal still for moonshining that the brothers had in Bear Head.

In August 1929, it was time for a raid. Tom had been on one before, but not one involving thugs who were as dangerous as the Nowling brothers. But he was ready – and excited. The arrival was great – quick and quiet. As the posse descended on the scene of the stills, one was still in operation. They also saw three figures fleeing the scene. Tom, who had been a hunter his entire life, began tracking the suspects into the woods. As he made his way in pursuit, he caught sight of two of the gang members and the chase began. What Tom didn’t know was that he had been lured directly into an ambush. He ran past Albert Nowling, who was hiding in the woods. After Tom got by, Albert stepped out and shot him in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun.

Tom died on the spot.

Of course, the sheriff and other deputies caught and arrested the three criminals. However, upon their court appearance, Matthew and William were released. Albert was charged and tried for murder. The jury found him guilty of manslaughter, and he was sentenced to twenty years in prison. However, after only five years into his sentence, he was given a conditional pardon and released.

All three of the bad guys were free, yet a widow and five children were still deprived of their father – forever.      


[1] Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/92311:1506?tid=&pid=&queryId=6bff5a633578398d366b2a08a5bb1f5c&_phsrc=zYw154&_phstart=successSource

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