The office of Norfolk County Sheriff dates back to 1793, when Gov. John Hancock appointed Ebenezer Thayer as the first man to hold the office. The first nine sheriffs were appointed by governors until the Massachusetts legislature changed the law and made the Norfolk County Sheriff an elected position in 1856.
The office has had its share of distinguished and colorful characters. Among them:
Sheriff Benjamin Clarke Cutler presided over three death penalty executions in the early 1800s at the old Norfolk County Jail on Village Avenue in Dedham.
Sheriff Augustus Endicott ran the jail from 1885 until 1898 while simultaneously holding office as a state representative and Dedham selectman and serving as president of the Dedham National Bank and director of the Dedham Mutual Fire Insurance Co.
Beginning in 1898, Sheriff Samuel Capen held the office for 41 years, and prior to that was deputy sheriff for 21 years. He also served as the Canton Fire Chief and was a Canton police officer.
Sheriff Charles Hedges served from 1961 until 1975 after an illustrious military career. President Lydon Johnson named Hedges to a commission to help fight the nation's burgeoning crime problem in the 1960s.
After serving on the Quincy City Council and in the Massachusetts House, Sheriff Clifford H. Marshall was elected in to take over the reins in Norfolk County in 1975. Marshall was nationally known as a progressive innovator, initiating the electronic incarceration house arrest program to alleviate jail crowding. The sheriff started the first sexual assault unit in Norfolk County and created the Braintree Alternative Center (forerunner to the current Dedham Alternative Center) where community service and work release programs were held.