Museum of Northwest Colorado: A public servant of note
Recent events around our nation have left many citizens pondering the issues of trust and respect in terms of law enforcement and other public service agencies. In the midst of the troubling disorder that some communities are experiencing, it is good to recall the history of our own local law enforcement agencies, and particularly some of the upstanding people that have served our area over the decades.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado was recently given artifacts and memorabilia from the estate of William H. Terrill, who served Craig and Moffat County for many years in his various positions in law enforcement. Scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings, correspondence and ephemera reveal a man who had rightfully earned the trust and respect of the community he served.
Bill Terrill was born in Baggs, Wyoming, in 1912, and after completing his education in Dixon, went on to work as a pipe fitter in Cheyenne in the midst of the Depression. He picked up his first law enforcement experience while working for the Cheyenne Police Department on a part-time basis. He married Lou Woods in 1936, and in 1946, the couple moved to Craig and worked in the restaurant business before Bill ran successfully for sheriff in 1954.
Bill established his reputation as an effective and trustworthy public servant, thereby earning him another win at the polls in the 1958 election. During his tenure as sheriff Bill wrote regular columns for the local newspaper that educated the readers in various realms of public and personal safety issues. His “folk-speak,” easy-going writing style dealt with common challenges that faced the community during that time. From bad checks to the “dealers in death,” as he called drug dealers, Bill tackled issues that confronted people every day. The popular sheriff even wrote a column addressed to the “boys and girls” of Moffat County, assuring them that the local police had youngsters’ best interests at heart. Terrill’s reputation soon spread throughout the state, earning him a significant tribute in the 1957 issue of the Colorado law magazine.
It was during this second term that Terrill’s reputation for integrity as a public servant, as well as his track record on effectively solving and prosecuting crimes, won recognition on a national level. In 1961, Terrill was appointed as U.S. Marshal for the state of Colorado by President John F. Kennedy. The Terrills moved to Denver to accommodate his new position, but they continued to maintain their strong ties to Northwest Colorado. After Kennedy’s assassination, Terrill was again appointed to the marshal position by President Lyndon Johnson, in 1965. He served as marshal until 1969.
Public servants carry a tremendous responsibility to uphold a high standard of honesty and accountability in their work. Law enforcement officials, road workers and technicians in quiet back offices all carry the burden of integrity and effectiveness for our local government. Terrill proved his faithfulness to the position he chose and to those he served. His outstanding reputation leaves a legacy that we can all rise to equal in whatever position we find ourselves.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado is planning an upcoming display featuring Bill Terrill and his career. The museum is open Monday through Saturday with free admission. For information call 824-6360.
June 5, 1920 dawned with clear blue skies and little if any wind; ideal conditions for an event that had drawn hundreds, possibly thousands, of people to Craig, Colorado.