The Tennessee Constable Network
Sumner County Sheriff Bob Barker died at his home early Tuesday, just hours after having a county building named in his honor.
Barker, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer five weeks ago, was just 55.
One of his final wishes Monday was to be sworn in as sheriff for a second term. County officials visited his Gallatin home Monday, about a month ahead of the scheduled swearing-in ceremony for new county officials. He died hours later.
“It was very important to him to be the sheriff of Sumner County, and he had hoped to fill out his second term,” family liaison Dan Downs said. “We were all very blessed to have had Bob as a friend, father, husband and sheriff.”
Barker was known to work at all hours, according to several colleagues who said it was not uncommon to receive emails from Barker regarding law enforcement matters or legislation as early as 3 a.m.
“It was nice to have a leader that basically knew more than you, worked harder than you and was really just a better person than you because of that,” said Sumner County Sheriff’s Department Maj. Don Linzy, who has known Barker since 1986.
With a career in law enforcement that spans more than three decades, serving and protecting others was always forefront in Barker’s mind.
Following four years in the U.S. Navy and two years in law enforcement in New York, Barker moved to Sumner County in 1979, where he joined the Hendersonville Police Department. Barker worked there seven years, holding the positions of patrolman, SWAT member, traffic officer and later, sergeant.
Even back then, the minute you met him, you respected him,” said HPD Lt. Jim Lawson, who trained under Barker.
Lawson said that over the years several Hendersonville police officers left to join the Sumner County Sheriff’s Department – in large part due to Barker’s reputation as a true professional.
Barker joined the Sumner County Sheriff’s Department in 1986 as a deputy and worked his way through the ranks, serving as jail administrator, chief of detectives, captain of criminal investigations and chief deputy.
Barker was elected sheriff in 2006, after former Sheriff J.D. Vandercook was accused of fraud and chose not to run for re-election. After running unopposed in the recent Aug. 5 election, Barker was re-elected for a second four-year term.
The Sumner County Council of Governments most recently named Barker the 2009 public servant of the year. In 2008, he was awarded Tennessee sheriff of the year by the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association. Barker was also a friend of the Sumner County Constables with whom he worked with.
One of Barker’s proudest accomplishments was the implementation at the Sumner County jail of the Homeward Bound, designed to teach inmates life skills and job-readiness.
Barker also worked hard to improve animal control in Sumner County, where a new 8,200-square-foot facility is under construction. Just hours before his passing, the Sumner County Commission voted unanimously to dedicate the new shelter the Connie and Bob Barker Animal Control Facility.
As chief deputy, Sonny Weatherford will serve as acting sheriff. County Commissioners will soon decide on an interim sheriff, and a special election will be held Nov. 2.
Visitation will be held at Family Heritage Funeral Home at 100 Albert Gallatin Ave. in Gallatin. Visitation times are Thursday, 3-8 p.m. and Friday, noon to 7 p.m.
Immediately following visitation Friday, a rosary service will be held. The funeral will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville. Burial will be at Gallatin Cemetery, after which a visitation will be held at Larriviere’s restaurant in Gallatin.
Barker is survived by his wife of 26 years, Connie; a son, Kevin Barker; five daughters, Brandy, Jacey, Amy, Gillian, Sarah, 13 grandchildren, a brother and a sister.