Charles Fred Dearman, Sr., a retired funeral home owner, the state’s longest serving coroner, Drew County’s longest-serving elected official, and recent inductee into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, died Sunday. He was 81.
Between 1964 and 2016, Dearman held four elected offices.
He served a two-year term on the Monticello City Council before running for Drew County Sheriff. He resigned from the sheriff’s office in 1969 to run for coroner after his father-in-law, the late Raymond Stephenson, decided not to seek reelection. He was elected (and reelected) Drew County Coroner more than 20 times, drawing opposition only once. His oldest son, Charles F. Dearman, Jr., now holds the position.
Dearman also served 10 years on the Monticello School Board and his many years of service on the Monticello Parks Commission was recognized when one of the ball fields at the Monticello Sports Complex was named the Charles F. Dearman Field.
Earlier this year, shortly before his 81st birthday, Dearman was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
A two-way guard for the Arkansas A&M (now UAM) football team in the 1950s, Dearman was a two-time All-AIC selection and the first athlete in any sport in UAM history to be named to a recognized All-America Team. He was named to both the NAIA and the Associated Press Little All-America Teams following his senior season in 1957. During his four seasons with the Boll Weevils, the team improved from a 4-4 record to a 9-2 record. With Dearman’s help, the Weevils won the first three out of four straight AIC championships, from 1955-1958.
Dearman, “Charlie Fred” to most everyone who knew him, had one of the most colorful personalities in Drew County and was known for his animated stories, like the reason he ran for the Monticello School Board or stories about living in the Drew County courthouse.
In a 2009 interview, Dearman said he ran for a position on the Monticello School Board because he couldn’t get his youngest son, David, back in class after he got into a fight with another boy. When Dearman recommended to the superintendent that the two boys be paddled and allowed to return to class, he was told paddlings were no longer allowed. “I decided I was going to run for the school board and bring the paddle back,” Dearman said. “It took me three years, but I got that paddle back in school. Of course you had to call their parents and get their OK first.”
While serving as Drew County Sheriff, Dearman, then 26, was the youngest sheriff in the state. The sheriff’s office had one deputy, one patrol car and the Dearman family lived in the courthouse where the sheriff’s offices are now located. “It was free and I didn’t have to pay utilities, property taxes, or insurance,” he said. “That’s why we lived there; that’s all we could afford. David called it the big house.”
Dearman also liked to tell the story about how he was turned down for a loan to buy into the funeral business, something that taught him an important lesson about the way business is conducted.
While serving as sheriff, Dearman approached a bank president about borrowing $300,000 to buy half interest in his father-in-law’s funeral business. When asked what kind of collateral he had, Dearman said he told the bank president “‘I’ve got a wife, two kids, a gun and a badge.'”
He didn’t get the loan.
However, the late Bennie Ryburn, Sr., the owner of another bank, loaned him the money, saying he could see what a hard worker Dearman was.
The next day, four board members from the bank that turned him down stopped by his office. “They said ‘I understand you need some money,'” Dearman said. “I told them I’d already been turned down and another bank loaned me the money. What I should have done was go to the board instead of the president. I didn’t know that then.”
Dearman was born and raised in Bradley County where he grew up on his family’s dairy farm delivering milk every morning before school. He graduated from Warren High School, Arkansas A&M College (UAM) and the Dallas Institute of Mortuary Science.
He is survived by his wife, Laura Lee Stephenson Dearman; two sons, Charles F. “Chuck” Dearman, Jr. (wife Cindy) and David Dearman; and three grandchildren, Haley Dearman, Charles F. “Chad” Dearman III, and Alexandra “Alex” Dearman.
Funeral arrangements will be announced by Stephenson Dearman Funeral Home of Monticello.