Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Elry Faulkner: The Man Behind the Badge

ELRYElry Faulkner is the longest serving sheriff in the state of Illinois and has left his mark on the citizens of Johnson County with his compassion for justice and fairness among everyone.

Sheriff Faulkner will retire at the end of November when his current term ends. He has no plans, at this time, to seek re-election.

Elry has served Johnson County for 40 years, after running and winning the election for sheriff at age 27.

There are many stories to be told after 40 years of service, but just a few have been chosen by some people who have worked closely with the sheriff’s department and Elry himself.

Elry Faulkner

Elry has only been shot one time in his entire career.

Before he left his home to try to find three escaped prisoners from the Marion Federal Penitentiary, his wife, Mary, told him to put on his bullet proof vest that he purchased six months before.

At first, he ignored Mary’s request, but he finally gave in and put it on.

Before Elry went on his search for some criminals that same night, he was doing a friend a favor by checking the thermostat at a local church.

He then picked up an extra deputy and on the way, two FBI agents.

When they got to the church, the doors were locked. When Elry tried to get in, that’s when he was attacked by an escapee and was shot in the chest.

Because of the bullet proof vest, he survived.

Johnson County Sheriff Elry FaulknerDon Sanders, The Vienna Times Editor Emeritus

Don Sanders, owner, editor and publisher of The Vienna Times newspaper (1969-2008) spoke very fondly of Elry:

“My immediate thoughts when thinking of Elry Faulkner… I recall over the past 10 or so years on numerous occasions being asked about Elry’s longevity and saying it did not surprise me because he was nothing other than fair and diligent in doing his job.

He did not play the political game, and one’s personal wealth didn’t enter into the equation either.

For the most part, and, yes, I can speak with some inside knowledge, as we first met when I was a new young owner of the newspaper and he had just been made a Vienna City Deputy Policeman, he was appreciated by the masses.”

Sanders continued, “Watching him and working with him to put the right messages to the public through his time also as deputy sheriff and sheriff were most enjoyable experiences.

He was always respectful in a most professional way.

He rose through the State Sheriff’s Association holding chairs from the bottom to the top.

There were a few snide remarks early on about his possible “Mayberry” ways; him not being the most suave acting. These were laid to rest soon as his accomplishments and gracious acceptance of awards were recognized.

Personally, we became friends many many years ago. We still are; a fact I am quite proud of,” Sanders said.

Larry Mizell, retired Vienna Correctional Center Warden

Larry Mizell, retired warden of Vienna Correctional Center has known Elry since high school.

“As an individual, I have always admired Elry.

Elry has a personality that has helped him develop relationships and create friends in the community.

He even develops relationships with people he arrests. Arrestees have thanked him before for taking them to prison. They thanked him because he treated them right.

He councels people about their behavior.

Mizell said Elry had a knack for capturing escapees.

While Mizell was still warden, two inmates had escaped from the Vienna Correctional Center. Elry decided he was going to go by Tunnel Hill north of Vienna.

Elry thought the inmates would follow the high line wires to avoid traveling in circles.

One hour later, Elry came back with both of the inmates.

“He knew when to be at the right place at the right time.”

Another story that Mizell shared that showed off Elry’s resourcefulness was a break-in in a trailer.

Firearms were stolen from the trailer.

Elry called all the local pawn shops and others further away. He found the guns and got an arrest.

“He always went above and beyond,” Mizell said.

Mizell continued by talking about Elry’s political career.

“Even when he wasn’t running for office, he would stop at businesses and ask how they were doing. He made a network with people… he is a super person.

Nothing is fake there. Elry is Elry, 100 percent.”

Though there are more stories that could be told and other people that have more stories, the legacy that Elry Faulkner is leaving is due to the passion he has for justice and for the people in his community.


Honoring Sheriff Elry Faulkner

Longest serving sheriff in Illinois

Do you have a story to share of your experiences with Johnson County’s legendary sheriff, Elry Faulkner?

The Vienna Times invites you to honor Sheriff Faulkner in upcoming issues by sharing your experiences with Elry.

No matter how you know Elry – on the right side of the law, or the other – we would like to hear from you.

Each week, now through the Thanksgiving issue (November 27), the Times will dedicate space on page 2 to honoring Elry with your messages.

Participation in this series is free of charge up to 200 words; similar to the space this article takes.

Send your story or comments to The Vienna Times to be included in future issues.

The preferred method of communication would be by email or US mail.

Send your message to:

viennatimes@frontier.com with ‘Elry’ in the subject line, or mail to:

The Vienna Times


PO Box 457

Vienna, Illinois 62995

Due to verification difficulties, social media submissions will not be considered.

You may request that your name not be published, but we do require it with all submissions to be considered. Anonymous requests will be kept confidential.

For the protection of this newspaper, The Vienna Times reserves the right to edit slanderous comments.