Retired police chief, public servant laid to rest

By Luke Britt
Retired Farmerville Police Chief George Cothran, who led the town’s police department for nearly 25 years, died Feb. 8. He was 83-years-old.
Cothran was described by those who knew him as a generous man who enjoyed helping people and seldom passed an opportunity to make people laugh.
“If you know someone who is loved by young children and old people, you can be pretty sure he’s OK,” Tommy Futch said. “Lots of people liked George, but children and the elderly loved him.”
Futch is the brother of Cothran’s wife of more than 40 years, the former Mary Ann Futch.
Cothran worked on pipelines, in the logging industry, as an electrician and even did some woodworking before finding his calling in law enforcement.
Cothran joined the Farmerville Police Department in the 1970s and became chief in 1982 after being elected Town Marshal for the first time. He was re-elected marshal three more times before retiring from the position in 1996. In Farmerville, the Town Marshal has for decades has also served as police chief.
Law enforcement was “different back then,” Farmerville Fire Department Chief Billy Jung said. “For George, law enforcement wasn’t about just taking people to jail; it was about helping people. Whenever he could, he tried to send people home instead of jail.
“George believed in rehabilitating people, I think, long before it became popular everywhere else,” Jung said.
Jung said he grew up near Cothran in Farmerville’s James addition and knew him, “all my life.”
When Jung was a child, he recalled Cothran picking him up on Sunday mornings to go to church and would even come to watch him play baseball. Cothran, he said, did many good works but never sought attention for those deeds.
“George was the chief of police, and I’m sure that’s all some people saw, but he did so many things to help people that no one ever knew about. I think he preferred it that way. He was that kind of guy.”
Following his retirement from the police department, Cothran remained active in community affairs, often attending public meetings and, occasionally, taking public officials to task when he thought they had erred.
Less than a year ago, in fact, it was Cothran who, while reviewing the Union Parish Police Jury’s budget, noticed that the parish was receiving almost no interest on a $10 million account. That revelation led to a new deal with the parish bank that will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in interest earnings for the parish.
Current Farmerville Town Marshal and Police Chief Bim Culbertson said Cothran not only mentored him as a young cop, but is solely responsible for his decision to run for marshal when Cothran retired.
According to Chief Culbertson, one day in 1996 Cothran told him to “come ride with me.”
“I immediately started trying to figure out what I had done wrong,” Culbertson said. “George wouldn’t fuss at you in front of others. He would take you for a ride and do it privately, so I thought I was in trouble and didn’t know why.”
What Cothran wanted, in fact, was to encourage Culbertson to run for the town marshal position to replace him when he retired.
“He is the reason I ran for this office,” Culbertson said. “I had no plans to run for marshal until he encouraged me to do it.”
Farmerville Town Clerk GayNell Pepper became the town’s assistant clerk the same year, 1982, that Cothran became police chief, and during an interview last year Cothran told The Gazette that Pepper, who was 20 years his junior, “over the years taught me more than anyone else about the administrative side of running a department. She saved my bacon more than once.”
Pepper said she remembers Cothran as a strong-willed, but “very caring man.”
“He really did care about people, about helping people,” she said. “He was very handy. He could have done anything, but he stayed in that job as long as he did because it allowed him to help people.”
Cothran is survived by his wife of 44 years, Mary Ann Cothran; daughter, Tempest Bryan (Jeff); four grandchildren, Trisha Haydell (Joe), Jeffrey Bryan (Anna), Jessica Lanham (Robbie), and Jared Bryan; eight great grandchildren; sister, Pat Chapman; sister in law, Linda Howe and Lora Brantley; brother in law, Tommy Futch (Angie); nephews, Wade Brantley (Katie) and Garrett Futch; niece, Noelle Moore (Vincent); and numerous family members and friends.

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