Lexington’s First Officer Down
More than ten years ago, local residents Deckie Knipstein and (the late) Gladys Thomas went to Randall Davis, Lexington’s Chief of Police, to try to get him to help acknowledge the life and service of John Calvin Brewer, Sr., Lexington’s Night Watchman in 1945. Some historical information about the era spoke of Brewer as the City Marshal, but in Lexington, he was known as the Night Watchman because he came on duty in the late evening and patrolled the city until dawn.
Deckie remembers, “Lexington only had one Night Watchman who worked during the night. The Sheriff ’s Department patrolled the city, as needed, during the day. Back in 1945, when I was 14 years old, there were a lot of businesses on the Square and each business had their ‘group’ who, with nothing else to do after dark, would go to their favorite establishment, sit around and visit. All the stores stayed open late back then and Mr. Brewer who was a friendly and quiet man, would make his rounds and greet the townspeople.”
She continued, “I remember one night, a man pulled up to daddy’s gas station and got out of his car with another man waiting in the car. The driver asked my daddy for some gas. Daddy opened the door to let the man in and the passenger got out of the car and started to walk toward the business. That’s when the Night Watchman walked up too. When the passenger saw the Night Watchman, he turned around and walked away. My daddy said he thought they must have been up to no good, but Mr. Brewer came up at just the right time, so no trouble came.”
On December 15, 1945, at around 8 or 9 p.m., the Night Watchman found a local man, Gaither Lovelady, known as “Red” to the locals, drunk on the railroad tracks just west of what is now Caldwell Street. Brewer tried to arrest Lovelady, who shot him during a scuffle. Brewer still managed to subdue Lovelady and take him to the Lexington jail, which wasn’t far from where he made his arrest, but he was hurt badly. Deckie remembers that several people heard the gunshots and went to see about the commotion. They found Lovelady in jail and Brewer seriously injured. The townspeople carried him into Carter’s Drug Store, which was located on the west side of the Square. He was taken to a hospital in Cameron, where he died five days later. He had been shot in an arm and a lung.
Lovelady, 42 at the time, was convicted and sentenced to death in the electric chair for murder; however, his sentence was later commuted to life. Lovelady’s convict record of the Texas State Penitentiaries showed him to be convict # 111155.
Brewer was buried in the Lexington City Cemetery at the age of 59. He has recently been included in The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc. website www.ODMP.org, thanks to Lexington Officer Ted Walton, along with City Secretary Tina Biehle and Municipal Court Clerk Candace Walch, who took the time to make sure Night Watchman Brewer would be remembered in Lexington. They had a plaque made documenting his life and death while in service, which now hangs in the Lexington Police Department.