Jackson County Times

Top Story News

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Captain Earl Cloud

By Bo McMullian

How can a man who fought in combat in Vietnam then served 30 years in law enforcement be remembered as a “peacemaker” by his friends and family after his death?

Capt. Earl Cloud’s fellow officers, as well as his wife and daughter, find it hard to explain, but it could be that Earl was a success--he succeeded in war and crime fighting, leaving peace in his wake.

Earl, at just 61, died last week of lung cancer, five short months after the cancer diagnosis. It is believed that the disease was the result of exposure to Agent Orange, the notorious chemical defoliant used during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts, former sheriff John McDaniel and Earl’s wife Linda all used the word “peacemaker” to describe him. But nobody could think of any great examples of his peacemaking. Former Chief Deputy Capt. John Dennis solved the mystery: “He was a very private, very quiet person,” Dennis explained to the TIMES Tuesday night. “He was very good with the public. He worked behind the scenes and made the sheriff’s job that much easier. He never patted himself on the back He never even talked about Vietnam. He never raised his voice yet he had a way with people. He loved people.” But when trouble came, Cloud was the greatest of partners. “He was brave,” Dennis said, “and he was a cornerstone. You knew he was there; he had your back.”

Dennis and Cloud worked the length of McDaniel’s seven terms as sheriff, from 1980 to 2008. All three retired at the end of McDaniel’s run. It was McDaniel who recruited Cloud to the sheriff’s office back in the days of Ronnie Craven, sheriff from 1972-1976. When Charles Applewhite defeated Craven in 1976, McDaniel began selling cars and Cloud went to Sunland as a cottage parent. Then McDaniel beat Applewhite in 1980 and quick to rejoin him was Cloud. He began as a deputy and worked his way up the ranks, retiring as a captain of the patrol division.

Cloud graduated from Cottondale High School in 1966 and was soon drafted into the Army as the Vietnam War was at its most deadly. He was wounded in combat and was awarded the Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Bronze Star. But Army records would have to be researched for the details because... he never talked about it.

“No, he never talked about it,” Dennis said, “but I know he was a true American hero in part because I’ve learned it’s those who have seen hell that never brag about it.”

“He told me a little bit towards the end,” Linda said. “Something about a grenade being thrown into an armored personnel carrier and him coming to with a radio telephone in his hand.” She knows no details about the Bronze.

Cloud returned to Cottondale after Vietnam, marrying Linda, also a CHS grad, in 1974. They had one child, Amanda, 24, who lives in Pensacola.

Earl had retired not quite one full year before doctors found a tumor in his right lung in August 2009, Linda said. “They told us he had six months to live without chemotherapy or 1-2 years with.” The family began the chemo but Earl never made it to his third round. “They found a lesion in his brain in Gainesville and we were in Lake City for another CT-scan when he had trouble breathing and was admitted to the hospital. He died there one week later, on Jan. 20.”

Linda said a VA doctor, in approving Earl for disability in October 2009, said the cancer was caused by “exposure to herbicide--Agent Orange.”

“I would sum him up as a peacemaker,” Sheriff Roberts said Tuesday. “He was a true leader,” McDaniel added. “His strong point was the resolution of conflict. He had powers of persuasion.”

“I can sum him up in five ways,” Linda said. “He was a good man, a good friend, a good husband, a good daddy and a good provider.”

No comments:

Post a Comment