Sheriff Robert King, 1933-41
Longtime Lee County resident Bob King, who served two terms as Sheriff, is also notable as one of the best South Florida tarpon guides of the early 20th Century.
Recalling his childhood during his term as Sheriff, King told a local newspaper “The cattlemen were in control when I came to Lee County. This was wild country back in the ’90s, but a few citizens saw the future of South Florida, worked for law and order and helped bring Lee County to its present prosperity.”
Even after taking office, fishing-related issues kept Sheriff King busy. A 1934 strike by the Florida Fish Producers’ Association to raise the price of mullet from 2½ cents to 3 cents a pound was at a deadlock, and independent fishermen requested protection from the Sheriff to protect their shipments to outside dealers, the Miami News reported.
Sheriff King was well regarded in the community and remembered for being strict. His granddaughter, Dorothy Gulnac, remembers Sheriff King after he had left office rocking in his rocking chair and telling stories from an era when there were only 14,990 residents in the county, according to the 1930 Census.
Deputy jailer Louis “Red” Furen, his wife, Alma, and son Louis Jr. resided in the living quarters on the second floor of the jail for eight years. Alma shared cooking duties with the trustees in preparing the daily meals in the jail. There were jail cells on both floors. The Florida Highway Patrol’s office, consisting of one desk, was on the first floor in a corner. Louis Jr. recalled that on more than one occasion, the Belle Glade Police Department temporarily housed its prisoners in the Lee County jail during hurricane threats. Conditions were very crowded, and the Belle Glade prisoners slept on the floor.
Political patronage, despite being reformed at the national level by the end of the 19th century, lingered locally. Sheriff King’s election loss in 1940 meant that Red Furen was out of a job as well, having been replaced by the incoming Sheriff.