Deputy Clemons Emptied Gun Before Dying

By Stephen D. Bowling

For most of its history, Breathitt County has never been an easy place to live for a lawman. Numerous Breathitt County Deputies, other law enforcement officials, and at least four United States Marshals met an untimely death in a society that believed in arbitration by gun.

While pouring through the back volumes of Breathitt County’s recorded history in The Jackson Times, I came across this article on the front page of the January 18, 1929 edition. The brief article gives a few of the details of the killing of a Breathitt County Sheriff’s Deputy who was trying to “do his job” and arrest a man on an outstanding warrant.

As modern law enforcement officers can attest, serving papers on a suspect can be the most dangerous aspect of law enforcement.  Officers never know what they will face when they pull into a suspect’s driveway or, in this case, walk into their yards. Unfortunately for Deputy Sheriff George “Pie Foot” Clemons, he walked into a situation that he could not handle on Friday, January 11, 1929.

Two Killed, One Shot as Attempted Arrest Fails

George Clemons Kills and is Killed by Granville Noble

as one Son Escapes and Other is Shot

Deputy Sheriff George W. “Pie Foot” Clemond was shot and killed while trying to make an arrest in 1929.

Deputy Sheriff George Clemons, 30, and Granville Noble, 60, were both killed at Lambric, on Quicksand, last Friday afternoon as Clemons and two possemen attempted to arrest Noble’s boy, Alex, wanted for store housebreaking and other charges.   Lafayette Noble, another son of the slain man, was wounded through the neck and, after treatment at a hospital here, has been lodged in the Breathitt County Jail.

Clemons and two possemen, Linville Clemons and Larkin Howard, approached a house on which Noble and his two sons were working, bearing a warrant for the arrest of Alex.

Granville Noble, on seeing the posse, called to them to stop and not to come closer.  At the same time he gave his son Alex, instructions to run.

The elder Noble opened fire on the approaching posse, brining down Deputy Clemons at the first round.

Clemons then drew his own pistol and emptied at Granville and his son, Lafayette, who had joined this father in the shooting at the posse.

Deputy Sheriff Linville Clemons

After their leader fell, Linville Clemons and Larkin Howard remained in the fight and renewed their efforts to capture the two Nobles. When the smoke of battle cleared away, Deputy Clemons had died, and the elder Noble was dead, while Lafayette Noble was shot through the neck.  Deputy Clemons, however, emptied his pistol at his assailants before dying.

Granville Noble and his son were known as general outlaws, many warrants having been issued for their arrest on many charges, as robbery, housebreaking, moonshining and other liquor activities.  Alex, who was being sought by the posse, had been evading arrest for nearly a year.  The elder Noble had several indictments filed away against him in the Breathitt County Court House at the time of his death.

It was reported here that trouble had been brewing between the Nobles and others for some time over liquor dealing.  Noble’s house had been burned about a month before and he had blamed his enemies for the deed.  He and his sons were engaged in rebuilding the house when the posse approached.

Fortunately, modern law enforcement training tactics give officers the upper hand in most situations.  Through correct training and continuous practice, officers can avoid the fate of Deputy George Clemons and his failed attempt to arrest Alex Noble.

An old photo of the tombstone erected for George W. Clemons at his grave in the Clemons Cemetery near Lambric on Quicksand Creek.

© 2023 Stephen D. Bowling

About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
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