In Memory: Sheriff Larry Dever

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The Southern Arizona sheriff who became a leading voice in the debate over illegal immigration recently died in a car accident near Williams, Arizona. Paul Rubin, who wrote numerous stories about Dever for the Phoenix New Times, talks about the Cochise County sheriff’s legacy.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: Larry Dever, Republican sheriff for Cochise county, died last night in a rollover on a gravel forest road near Williams. Dever was on his way to meet one of his sons for a hunting trip. He was known for trying to keep a lid on the more strident voices on both sides of the immigration debate. Joining us is Paul Rubin who wrote numerous stories about Dever for the "Phoenix New Times." He was a friend of yours, wasn't he?

Paul Rubin:He was a friend and professional acquaintance, 32 years and counting.

Ted Simons: How did you get to know him?

Paul Rubin: When I was a fledgling young kid, down at the border, he was a real border sheriff. He did have a jurisdiction on the border, which is a key component to his later fame. Not fortune, just fame. We got to know each other, he was a swat team guy, and I was the young whipper snapper trying to learn how to cover the cops. And we had a common ground in that we both loved baseball. And every time we got tough with each other and nasty, we'd always talk about baseball. And we got to know each other really well and got to know the families and all that super guy.

Ted Simons: Well-known for thoughts on illegal immigration and -- what were his thoughts on the immigration issue?

Paul Rubin: When I said he's a real border sheriff, he was fully cognizant of the onslaught in the early 2000s of illegal aliens coming up from central America and Mexico. And he was keenly aware of the damage that was being done to the ranch and to some individuals and all that. He also, though, was also keenly aware that this was a problem that he didn't put a defeat of the aliens that were coming up. He said these people are trying to get a job, he was not a one-dimensional guy, and he didn't scream and yell loudly about the fact that these were evil brown people whatsoever. As a matter of fact he did his mission in central America as a youth, and it changed his life. Seeing how other cultures and work ethics.

Ted Simons: It sounds like he was more critical of U.S. government federal policy than he was of the immigrants themselves. I know one of your stories he describes comprehensive reform, immigration reform as bull pucky.

Paul Rubin: There's a phrase for you. Stop the presses, a border sheriff in a rural county is going to be against the federal government in all way, shape, and form. You don't get elected trying to bring in the feds and go that direction. He was consistent from the start of the immigration problem, which didn't start yesterday, but it really came to the floor in the early 2000s. He's a law and order guy. He wanted his people, meaning his constituency as safe as possible. I thought we had a lot of debates over the years, and I thought he sometimes was getting tooled by the national forces that became very prominent in the SB 1070 argument. And I thought because he presented so well, you take one look at this guy and hear him for one minute, he oozes sincerity. What you saw on these TV shows if you watch fox TV, you'd see him a lot. He was very sincere. He wasn't a Johnny come lately like our Maricopa County sheriff who sees a moment and grabs the population, angry with illegals. He wasn't a guy that came in from Massachusetts and saw a chance to get fame and glory. He was what he was and that's why he was -- that's why he rose to where he rose.

Ted Simons: Indeed, conservatives obviously liked him, yet democrats, liberals, many of them -- I thought -- personally. That's the thing. One of the quotes in your Stover, most people intuitively trust him.

Paul Rubin: That's interesting. I wrote that?

Ted Simons: Yes, did you. You quoted someone who said that. Someone on the opposite side of the immigration issue, yet they trusted him.

Paul Rubin: He was -- you're going to be hearing in the upcoming days that he was a patriot, an American hero, a guy who drew the line in the sand against the forces of evil from the south. Well, that's a little cartoonish, and it's a caricature. He was actually a very decent, good, honest man, flawed, was he a great man? What makes a great man? He was a very good man, loyal to his six son and wife and all the grandkids. Loyal to his mom who passed away four days ago. I'm sure he was spinning in his mind, when he drove off the road. It's -- he was a guy who is -- who was consistent from the day I met him, about '80, '81, until we spoke yesterday. Hours before he passed away.

Ted Simons: His relationship with Joe, Paul Babeu, what was his relationship?

Paul Rubin: It's hard to have a relationship with Joe Arpaio if you're another sheriff, because you have to share the stage. I'll leave it at that. He thought Joe was a one-off, and didn't really regard him one way or the other, other than a few adjectives that we'll remain nameless right now. Babeu is a more complicated situation, he liked Paul, he did not like the way Paul handled his own situation. Not with the sexual orientation, that mattered nothing to him, it was the way that Paul had in Larry's mind deceived Larry about who he was. And he thought at the end of the day that Paul was about Paul, and not about the greater good of their mission.

Ted Simons: Last question, obviously a lot of history here, just very interesting gentleman. What is Larry Dever's legacy?

Paul Rubin: I thought about that today. His legacy on the national stage is going to be this old western sheriff with the old hat, kind of plain-talking guy, straight ahead guy. The legacy to his family and the people that knew him was a guy with a droll sense of humor, who didn't miss a trick, who was loyal to the max with everybody around him, the tears that have been shed today down in Cochise county, I've talked to the people down there is vast. So the legacy -- his real legacy, forget this national immigration thing, the real legacy is the one you and I would like to have -- people that loved him, he was loyal, he was as truthful as a guy can be, and he was loved. And that's it.

Ted Simons: That's a good place to stop. Paul, thank you so much for joining us.

Paul Rubin: Thanks, Ted. See you again.

Paul Rubin:Reporter, Phoenix New Times;

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