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
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,
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
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
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
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.