By Joy Russell
Ralph Baker had served as Sheriff of Madison County, Arkansas, from 1973 until his tragic death on January 5, 1998. Sheriff Baker lost his life in the flooded waters of White River near St. Paul in the early morning hours while investigating the theft of stolen property in the area. Born on September 1, 1938, at Fleming Creek in Madison County to William "Bill" Baker and Evangeline Veroucchi Baker, Ralph was a life-long resident of this county and has been described as a legend here in this county. Ralph was a board member of the Arkansas Sheriff's Association, a member of the National Sheriff's Association, a member of the Sheriff's Boys and Girls Ranches, Inc., and a 1971 graduate of the Police Academy in Camden. Survivors are his wife of 47 years, Noreta Burrell Baker; two daughters, Billie Whorton and Patricia Feltner, both of Huntsville, one sister, Barbara June Burton of St Paul, and four grandchildren.
Funeral services were held on Friday, January 9,1998, at the St. Paul High School Gymnasium with a crowd estimated to number about 2000 gathering to honor Sheriff Baker. The funeral procession passed through Huntsville as hundreds of school children and friends stood at solemn attention as the hearse led by law enforcement officers passed by. Law enforcement officers came from all over the state to pay their respects to Sheriff Baker, who was remembered as someone who never backed away from trouble. Ralph Baker was laid to rest in the Brashears Cemetery, following a twenty-one gun salute fired by seven Madison County deputies.
Sheriff Baker's death has touched Madison County residents with a great sense of loss. During his terms of office, Madison County's law enforcement department had been developed into one that all of Madison County could be proud of. For years the vehicles of Madison County residents could be seen with bumper stickers which said "RALPH CARES". Now because of Sheriff Baker's untimely death, many residents feel as Rev. Roy Cain stated at Ralph's funeral when talking about a replacement for Ralph..."Don't waste your time looking for someone like Ralph, because they don't exist".
A letter of condolence from President and Mrs. Bill Clinton said, "May Ralph live on in your good memories of him". Madison County residents, as well as Ralph's family, may find some comfort in those memories and in knowing that Ralph will forever remain a part of Madison County's history. Sheriff Baker will not soon be forgotten and there is no need to say more than two words about his service to Madison County ...... RALPH CARED'.
© 1999-2001 by Joy Russell. All rights reserved.
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