Electric Review

Culture & Criticism Since 2003

“Sheriff As Historian”

John Edmonds stands in the historic Courtroom A of The Temple of Justice Courthouse in Redwood City, which first opened back in 1910. Photo used by permission of Archives Committee, Redwood City Public Library. All rights reserved.

The following poem was inspired by the work of California writer and historian John G. Edmonds, who served as a Deputy Sheriff in San Mateo County, California for 40 years. But going beyond his civic life, Edmonds was also a highly adept self-motivated historian who took it upon himself to explore and record the cinematic history of the San Mateo County court system. His two primary books on the topic are The Early Courts of San Mateo County (1986); and  Cops, Courts, Jails and Judges – A Historical Perspective of the San Mateo County Criminal Justice System (2007).

Edmonds didn’t just stop at his typewriter, however. Instead, he used his drive as a tool to teach people about the distinct history of the region, serving for a time as President of the Local History Room for the Archives Committee of the Redwood City Public Library. During this period, he also wrote articles for both The Journal Of Local History and the San Mateo County Bar Association.

“John was always very dedicated to history and to San Mateo County,” remarked Miran Wydo, the current President of the Local History Room at the Redwood City Public Library who also worked in the Sheriff’s Department at one time. “John loves history and he wants people to know the history of San Mateo County – always eager to share it with anyone who’s interested. He wrote about it so much because he wanted the history out there. He wanted people to love it the same way he did.”

I found Edmonds’ books and journalism quite by accident while in the midst of doing research, and his writings eventually became foundational reference points for my forthcoming book – A Higher Calling: A Review of the Judges & Lawyers Who Shaped the San Mateo County Courts (to be released August 1, 2020). Edmonds’ collective canon is vitally important to the record of California history, since some of his work offers the only modern perspective on these early court-years in San Mateo County.

In sum, Edmonds is a unique man who personifies the maverick spirit of old San Francisco. In the end, “Sheriff As Historian” is a testament to the myriad ways the forgotten road can inspire today’s path.

by John Aiello

Sheriff As Historian



Can hear

The suffering drip


On the

Invisible trail


No sacred direction


Hoof-beat reflections

In the

Broken mirror




See old outlaws

Become withered

Blue ghosts


In the moonlight


The milk

White road


From both sides

Of themselves

by John Aiello

July 2020


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This entry was posted on July 9, 2020 by in 2020, July 2020, Poetry and tagged .
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