“The Trooper”
(By Neal Murphy)
   
 
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October 31, 2017 - My sister’s first husband was a barber, operating the Sanitary Barber Shop in San Augustine, Texas in the early 1950s. Robert Crosby was a good barber, with a good clientele, but he had an illness.

He was bitten by the “law enforcement” bug. My sister, Evelyn, was not all too happy with Robert’s decision to sell his barber shop and enter state trooper school in Austin, Texas. However, soon after his application for the school was accepted, he was on his way to camp Mabry in Austin for several months of intense training.

 

Upon graduation Robert was assigned to Humble, Texas on November 29, 1953. His Captain was Glen Rose whose headquarters was in Houston, Texas. Effective December 1, 1953, Robert’s salary was $296 per month.

His assignment letter was signed by W. J. Elliott, Chief, Texas Highway Patrol. Robert’s partner was Doyce Doolin, and they were assigned to patrol from Humble, Texas north to Cleveland, Texas.

 

It seemed that Robert’s dream had finally come true. He and Evelyn rented a small house in Humble and moved to his new assignment. It was during the move to Humble that Robert met his new partner quite by accident. Robert was driving an old flat bed truck with their meager belongings tied on, and he stopped in Cleveland, Texas to eat breakfast.

Not wanting to leave his revolver in an unlocked truck, he stuck it in his belt and entered the café. All eyes went straight to the gun as he entered and sat down at a booth. Within a few minutes, two state troopers entered, walked straight to Robert, and each grabbed an arm. It appeared that he was in deep trouble, however after showing the officers his badge and new identification, they all walked outside and got acquainted. Robert was to spend the next year with his new partner.

 

I was a 19 year old college student during this time. Occasionally I would drive the 150 mile trip to Humble and spend the weekend with Robert and Evelyn. In 1954 there were no formal regulations concerning citizens riding along with the state troopers, so I usually spent a couple of nights riding in the back seat of the patrol car watching the lawmen in action. I, too, was smitten by the “law enforcement” bug by this time.

 

In November of 1954, I had made plans to spend the weekend with Robert and Evelyn on Saturday night, November 27th and the 28th, a Sunday. My plans were to ride with the troopers Saturday night once again. As it turned out, I overslept on that Saturday morning. I decided it was too late to drive to Humble, so changed my plans to another weekend. I could not have realized at the time that the decision probably saved my life.

 

My parents got the call after midnight Saturday, a telephone call from my great uncle who lived in Houston reporting the news that Robert had been shot, and his partner wounded. Robert was in Jeff Davis hospital in bad condition. We immediately threw a few things together and sped off to Humble.

 

My sister had baked Robert his favorite pie, apple, and carefully placed it on the kitchen table. He would want a slice of pie when he came home that night from work. She was unaware of the drama unfolding several miles away on McCarty drive in Houston. Her neighbor owned a wrecker service and constantly monitored the police channels. She was listening to the chatter about the state troopers being shot, and that one had been rushed to a hospital. Eventually a name was mentioned on the air of the trooper who had died as a result. Shocked that it was Robert, she pondered what she should do. She called Evelyn just to chat, but really to find out if she was aware of anything going on. She was not.

 

About that time, she saw a state vehicle pull up to Evelyn’s modest house, and two men exit. They broke the news to my sister, and offered to drive her to Jeff Davis hospital. Robert had already died from severe shotgun wounds by the time she arrived.

 

Details of the shooting were sketchy. We learned that two brothers, Merle and Archie Ellisor, had borrowed a car from a relative, and had gone on a crime spree that evening. After an armed robbery of a motel on highway 90, during their getaway, they encountered a Harris County deputy sheriff, Jimmy Scarborough, riding to work on his motorcycle.

After some erratic driving, the deputy pulled over the vehicle only to be shot in the upper right arm by the driver of the vehicle, Merle.

Scarborough responded by emptying his .45 pistol at the rear of the car which sped away. One bullet shattered the rear glass of the Chevrolet, but it kept going.

  One of his bullets had found a human target… the driver had been hit in the upper back, but it was not a serious wound.

 

Communications were not very good during the 1950s, especially between different departments. The city of Houston had different radio channels than the Sheriff Department. The State Patrol had their own radio frequency as well. Any communication between these three departments was snail slow at best. This deficiency played an important role in the events of that night.

 

Unaware of the motel robbery, and the shooting of the Deputy Sheriff, Robert and his partner met this vehicle on McCarty drive. It was driving recklessly in an attempt to flee the scene. The troopers turned around on the vehicle and gave chase. It was a short chase as the driver attempted to make a right turn into a dirt road, but hit an embankment instead. The car came to an abrupt halt with the patrol car directly behind.

 

Suddenly the night was shattered by gun fire. The occupants of the 1946 Chevrolet shot a rifle and shotgun into the windshield of the patrol car. Buckshot hit Robert in the face and he fell over the steering wheel unconscious. Trooper Doolin was grazed on his left cheek, but suffered no other injuries. The three men exchanged gunfire for a few seconds until the two suspects managed to escape into the darkness. Doolin turned to check on his partner even as a passing physician stopped to render first aid to Robert. This was in the days prior to Paramedics and EMTs, and ambulance operators usually used the “scoop and run” method on seriously injured patients. The doctor rode in the ambulance with Robert, doing what he could to stem the bleeding.

 

By the time my sister arrived at Jeff Davis hospital, Robert had already died. She was not allowed to see him, and was given a sedative and placed in the same room in which her husband had died minutes before. In the mean time, a search for the shooters had begun, led by Texas Ranger Johnny Klevenhagen and Harris County Sheriff Buster Kern. The next Wednesday, Merle Ellisor was captured near the ship channel after reports of several tug boats being burglarized of food and clothing. The younger brother, Archie Ellisor was captured Tuesday while holed up in a room in Keller’s Tourist Court in Liberty, Texas. The search was over, the brothers in custody, and the search for answers had begun.

 

Merle Ellisor readily admitted shooting the three officers, absolving his younger brother, Archie, of any involvement. Merle said that he first shot deputy Scarborough because, “I had a car load of stolen guns.

I was out on parole, you know, and I could not let him get near the car and see those guns. I guess I was just drunked up and crazy.” Although Merle stated that Archie never fired a gun, that story was unlikely as the patrol car had been hit by buckshot as well as rifle bullets. It would have been quite a feat for Merle to shoot both weapons at the same time. However, no charges were ever filed against Archie for this crime.

 

In January of 1955, Merle Ellisor went on trial for the murder of Highway Patrolman Robert Crosby in District Judge Ed Duggan’s court in Houston. A jury deliberated only twenty minutes before returning the death penalty verdict. Merle, who had said he wanted to go to the electric chair for the crime, got his wish. However, Merle’s mother vowed, “The fight has just begun. We’re not going to give up hope.” Thus began a series of harassing letters, phone calls, and attempted personal meetings with my sister from his family. Apparently they felt that if the victim’s wife would ask the death penalty be changed, then an appeals judge might change his penalty to life imprisonment. However, this activity proved fruitless. Troopers stationed in Nacogdoches, Lufkin, and Center, Texas vowed to Evelyn that she should call them if she felt threatened in any way by Merle’s family. They vowed to “…see who could get to San Augustine the fastest”. She never had to call them as the harassment finally ceased.

 

Merle Wayne Ellisor was put to death in the electric chair in Huntsville, Texas, as a result of his crime. My sister’s only public comment was that she was “…glad that the system worked, and justice was served.”

 

As Paul Harvey says, there is always “the rest of the story” that is seldom known. So, this is the rest of the story. Robert was buried in the Liberty Hill cemetery in San Augustine after one of the largest funeral services ever seen in this small town. Col. Homer Garrison headed a group of 57 State Troopers, Houston Police Officers, and Sheriffs from all over the region as they formed an honor guard along the route from the funeral home to the cemetery. It was estimated that almost 100 police cars and motorcycles headed the procession, a sight seldom seen before nor since in San Augustine.

 

Evelyn moved back to San Augustine, and added a room to her parents home with some of the life insurance monies from the state.

 

She lived there for several years until her second marriage in 1959.

Then she relocated to Lufkin, Texas with her new husband. One child, a daughter was born to them in 1960. This daughter died of breast cancer at the age of 37 in 1997. Evelyn died suddenly of a massive heart attack on December 7, 2002. She was buried in the Liberty Hill Cemetery beside her first husband, Robert, the trooper. Her second husband, Ray, died of congestive heart failure in 2005, thus ending the saga of her life which began with the tragic shooting death of her first husband on November 27, 1954. Only one granddaughter, Callie, remains of her family. Her dad is a border patrol agent in Laredo, Texas at this time.



Comments:
There was hatred then and still hatred today by those whom want to cause serious harm and death to law enforcement personnel.
Posted by Big Al at 8/12/2018 12:00:40 AM

A true hero story the law enforcement officer never knows if he will come home when he leaves for work God Bless our officers
Posted by Cracker lawson at 8/19/2018 7:37:20 PM

A really good read
Posted by Topcat at 8/22/2018 11:41:53 AM

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