In a time when deputies walked the streets of Aspen in cowboy hats and Western boots and hippie newcomers were scowled at, Carrol D. Whitmire was the top lawman in Pitkin County.
Whitmire, who was challenged by gonzo journalist-turned-candidate Hunter S. Thompson in his famous bid for sheriff, has died at his home in Golden Valley, Ariz. He was 74.
“Whitmire was sort of the last vestige of the good-old-boy sheriffs in Pitkin County,” Sheriff Bob Braudis told the Aspen Daily News. Braudis was Thompson’s close friend and he worked on his campaign.
Whitmire’s daughter Cheri Brown told the Aspen Times that her father wanted to spend his last days in the Roaring Fork Valley to spend his last days, but he became too ill.
“We’ll bring his ashes back in May and have a memorial service here, back in Colorado,” she said.
Whitmire was sheriff from 1966 to 1976, but he rose to national prominence when Thompson campaigned against him on the Freak Power ticket. Thompson chronicled his campaign in Rolling Stone under the title “The Battle of Aspen.” Thompson shaved his head for the campaign, and he mocked Whitmire, who had a crew cut, as “my long-haired opponent.”
Thompson’s platform, says the Daily News, “championed the punishment of dishonest dope dealers with a bastinado, paving the streets with sod, changing the town’s name to Fat City in order to prevent ‘greedheads, land-rapers and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name “Aspen”’ and the disarmament of all deputies.”
Thompson lost, but Freak Power gained ground over the ensuing years, with many of Aspen’s counter-culture types becoming city council members, county commissioners and community leaders.
Of course, the greedheads, land-rapers and other human jackals didn’t do too bad for themselves, either.
Whitmire reportedly lived with his family in the basement of the county courthouse during his tenure. He is remembered as the last of Aspen’s old-guard sheriffs during a period of cultural upheaval.
He died March 25.