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Former city marshal dies; services Thursday

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Hilton remembered as dedicated, friendly, energetic and godly
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Former Marshal Mike HIlton passed away Friday at his home.

Friends, family and former co-workers are remembering longtime Ruston city Marshal Mike Hilton today as dedicated, friendly, energetic and faithful to his God.

Hilton, 73, died Friday evening at his home. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at Ruston’s First Baptist Church. Visitation will be from 2 p.m. until service time at the church.

Hilton spent 47 years in law enforcement, the last 33 of those as city marshal. He retired in 2014.

“He was the consummate professional,” Ruston Police Chief Steve Rogers said.

Hilton began his career with the city police department and later became a Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s deputy.

“I’m just shocked,” Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone said Saturday upon learning of Hilton’s passing. “Mike Hilton was a unique human being. He was a man of many talents and very personable.”

It was Stone’s father who was Hilton’s training office at RPD. Later, when Stone joined the LPSO in 1976, Hilton “took me under his wing,” Stone said.

“Mike taught me a heck of a lot, and not just about policing,” Stone said.

Though Hilton had ancestral roots in Lincoln Parish, he was a native of Abbeville in South Louisiana. His family moved back to Ruston in 1961.

“My dad wanted me to work in the oil field, and I had no desire whatsoever,” Hilton said in an interview with the Ruston Leader at the time of his retirement.

Hilton saw a newspaper advertisement for a civil service test, took the exam and soon found himself at age 21 as Ruston’s youngest police officer. Five years later, he moved to the sheriff’s department.

Then, when City Marshal Charles Humphries died three years in office, Hilton eventually decided to run for the job. That was in 1981. There were nine candidates, including Hilton. He won the election in the primary.

That was Hilton’s first — and last — race. He never drew opposition.

In the 2014 interview, Hilton said he feared if he became a public official, he’d lose the personal contact with the public he’d had as a patrolman and deputy.

But he didn’t.

“He could relate to a 14-year-old just as good as he could a 70-year-old. He was jus that kind of person,” Sandy Freeman, one of Hilton’s deputy marshal’s for nine years, said.

“Mike was a very outgoing person. He had that gift of meeting people and relating very well with people. Mike never met a stranger,” former Ruston Mayor Hilda Taylor Perritt, Hilton’s cousin, said.

“He was a friend to everybody,” Stone said. “He’d sit and talk and listen.”

Perritt remembers Hilton as a “rambunctious” young man whose life changed when made his profession of faith in Jesus Christ and when he married his wife, the former Diane Bullock.
“Those two things totally turned around Mike’s life,” Perritt said.

Hilton was known to have often prayed with people upon whom he was serving court orders.
Current Marshal Jim Liner worked 31 years for Hilton as a deputy marshal.

“He was like a father to me,” Liner said. “Before I went to work for him, he disciplined me. I was a brand new Christian.”

Liner remembers studying the Bible with Hilton in the workshop behind Hilton’s Robert Street home.

“He’s just the kind of person I needed as a friend,” Liner said.

Though Hilton was technically an administrator, he worked out in the field, just as did his deputies. Freeman said Hilton always had a large bag of pet food in his truck and would stop and feed strays at dumpster sites.

Hilton was as avid motorcycle rider, talented at leather craft and loved tinkering with all sorts of projects, friends said.

When Hilton retired he said he looked forward to being able to choose the things he wanted to do.

Despite his belief expressed in the Ruston Leader interview that “I’ve matured here in this office (as marshal), Hilton said he didn’t think he’d feel “awkward not being a police officer.

I’ve done enough of it to make me content.”

Hilton is survived by his wife, Diane; three sons, one brother, one sister and six grandchildren.

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