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Marion County Sheriff Roger Vickers, who served as the county's law enforcement leader since 2009 and with the Arkansas State Police for 36 years before that, died Thursday evening.

Vickers, 67, died of cancer in a Harrison hospice.

Friends remembered Vickers as a strong advocate for his county and for building a new county jail.

"He was a great asset to us because of his background in law enforcement," said Terry Ott, county judge of Marion County. "He was courteous to everyone. He had Marion County in his heart."

Just two weeks ago, Vickers advocated for a new jail after a state inspection ordered the Yellville lockup closed. His wife, Joan Vickers, made an impassioned plea on his behalf to Marion County Quorum Court members to buy land for a prospective jail, Ott said.

Justices of the peace voted to purchase the land.

"He helped us make great strides with this," Ott said.

Vickers began his career with the Arkansas State Police in 1972 and served as a trooper in Pulaski, Faulkner, Craighead, Desha and Marion counties before becoming the assistant troop commander of Troop I in Harrison.

In 1989, Vickers was awarded the Valor Award, the highest honor bestowed by the state police, after shooting a man who drew a weapon on him.

According to state police records, the man was threatening to kill his estranged wife in Yellville. Vickers said he spotted the man in a parked vehicle and approached him. The man kicked open his car door and pointed a shotgun at Vickers.

Vickers shot once at the man, striking him. The shooting was ruled justified after a state police investigation.

"The deadly force that you were required to use ... not only saved you from death or serious injury, but more than likely saved the lives of other citizens," Capt. John Paul Davis, the commander of the state police troop in Harrison, wrote in a Jan. 26, 1989, letter to Vickers.

"I was indeed thankful that I was not given the task of explaining to your wife, Joan, the reason you would not be coming home on the eve of Jan. 25."

Vickers retired from the state police in March 2008 and won his bid for the Marion County sheriff's job that November.

"He was a good man," said Capt. Bill Hilligoss of the Marion County sheriff's office. "He was a good friend. He dealt with everybody the same way. He treated everyone fairly."

Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery worked with Vickers while both were with the state police.

"He was always willing to help," Montgomery said. "He'd see something going on in our county and call and ask if we needed any assistance. He had a small department, and I knew he didn't have the resources to do that, but he offered. He had that passion for law."

Montgomery, who will be named the president of the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association on Tuesday, said he visited Vickers in the Harrison hospice two weeks ago and told him of the appointment.

"He said then he wanted to get better to see me sworn in," Montgomery said. "I saw him again last week, and he had gotten worse. He said, 'Looks like I'm not going to make it to see you.'

"The appointment is bittersweet," Montgomery said.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Friday in a prepared statement that she was saddened to learn of Vickers' death.

"Sheriff Vickers has courageously and honorably protected the people of Marion County since he began his long career in law enforcement," she said. "No matter the issue, he always fought to improve the community and the lives of those who call Marion County home."

Ott noted Vickers' humility regarding his advocacy for a new jail.

"He worked hard to get this accomplished," the county judge said. "But he didn't want the jail named after him because we were using public funds to build it."

Ott said officials may name a conference room inside the new jail after him, though.

Justices of the peace will meet soon to appoint an interim sheriff, Ott said.

Vickers' term expires on Dec. 31, 2016.

State Desk on 07/25/2015

Print Headline: Marion County sheriff dies at 67

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