CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County's longest-serving sheriff died Monday after a period of hospice care. Ray Wilson was elected in 1956 and served 20 years in office.
Wilson had campaigned for office promising to avenge the 1940 murder of his father, former Crestview Police Chief Lester Wilson, who was shot through the front door of the family home shortly after his son, then 12 years old, went to bed.
Lester Wilson was planning to run for sheriff at the time.
"He was a cinch to be elected," Ray Wilson said in a 1958 interview with The Miami News. "He had promised to clean up gambling and bootlegging."
After tracking down three suspects 18 years after the murder, Ray Wilson continued searching for those he said "paid them and some others who did the planning."
Sheriff Larry Ashley conferred a Civic Leader Award on Wilson in April 2012 and spent "a couple hours talking and going over old pictures," sheriff's spokesperson Michele Nicholson said.
Nicholson said the two sheriffs remained good friends. Ashley said Wilson "was known for his fairness, grit, intelligence and, of course, his ever-present cowboy hat."
"It was obvious to me how much he had genuinely loved serving this community for 20 years as sheriff," Ashley said.
Arrangements are being made with Brackney Funeral Home in Crestview. No details are available as yet.