Former sheriff 'Ham' Perkins dies at age 88
Served from 1968 to 1987
Retired sheriff and longtime Jefferson County resident Hamlin "Ham" Perkins died early Saturday at his home near Madras at the age of 88.
Friends and former co-workers remembered him as a kind man, who was admired and held in high esteem by everyone with whom he came in contact.
Current Sheriff Jim Adkins, who was hired by Perkins in May 1986, said Perkins was "loved and respected by his employees."
"He did an excellent job running the sheriff's office and jail," said Adkins, noting that Perkins was "very professional."
Former sheriff and current Human Resources Director Mike Throop, who was hired by Perkins as a deputy in March 1984, recalled Perkins' courteous manner.
"He was the kind of sheriff you always wanted to be," said Throop. "What I remember the most about Ham was how he treated people."
Whether he accompanied the sheriff to serve an eviction notice, or some other type of civil process, Perkins was unfailingly considerate. "He made sure that people were treated respectfully and fairly; I learned that from him," said Throop.
Serving on the Sheriff's Posse with Perkins, Throop said the sheriff displayed his oldtime values. "He was easygoing, always fair, and always listened to what you had to say," Throop said.
Another longtime employee of the sheriff's office, April Stream, who is now the director of the county's 911 dispatch center, said she never heard anyone say anything negative about Perkins.
"He was the best boss I have ever had and most definitely the kindest and fairest man I have ever known," she said.
"He had the uncanny ability to treat everyone, and I mean everyone, with respect and dignity," said Stream, who worked for Perkins from 1980 until his retirement in 1987. "It didn't matter who you were or what you were, he treated people how he wanted to be treated."
Stream recalled a time when she and the sheriff flew to Arizona to pick up a female prisoner. As they awaited the return trip at the airport in Phoenix, they were sitting with the prisoner between them, when Perkins said he was going to go call his wife.
"You girls go shopping and I'll meet you back here," he said to Stream, who still laughs at the memory.
Perkins believed in treating everyone well and reminded jail staff that "They always come in one way and go out another," referring to inmates who might be drunk or on drugs when they came into the jail, but clean and sober when they left.
"You never wanted to disappoint Ham Perkins because you had so much respect for him," said Stream.
"I am thankful that he was in my life," she said. "As a boss, none can compare and as my friend, few come close."
All the way from China, former Madras resident Angie Eagan posted a comment on a rapidly growing Facebook page, put together to honor and remember Perkins.
"I have a multitude of fond memories of Ham from childhood, especially the part that revolved around horses," she wrote. "Ham always stood out to me as a man who perfectly balanced authority, humor and kindness."
Perkins was born on June 29, 1923, in Portland, to George and Mary Jane Perkins. His father was born in Drain, Ore., and his mother, whose maiden name was McKinley, was born in Scotland, and came to the U.S. at age 10.
In 1942, Perkins joined the Marines, and served as a sergeant in charge of a postal station in Hawaii.
After the war, Perkins attended the University of San Jose, and began his career as a police officer at Laguna Beach, Calif., where he worked from 1948 to 1950.
In the 1950s, he began farming, and returned to Central Oregon in the 1960s.
In 1964, Perkins purchased a 200-acre farm in the northeastern part of the county, where he and his wife Bernideen raised their six children.
Perkins was hired in early 1968 as a deputy by acting Sheriff Ron Toms, and later that year, appointed sheriff. In November 1968, he was elected to the position that he held until his retirement in 1987.
During his years as sheriff, Perkins also served as the president of the Oregon Sheriffs' Association, was named Sheriff of the Year in 1978, and started the Jefferson County Posse.
Funeral services for Perkins will be held Saturday, Dec. 17, at 11 a.m. at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds Arena. Adkins and deputies from the sheriff's office will lead a procession from Bel-Air Colonial Funeral Home to the fairgrounds around 10 a.m.