‘A true hero of the force’: Tribute to retiring CCSO Capt. Ricky Blackwood

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Captain Ricky Blackwood and Sheriff Matt Gentry (Cullman County Sheriff’s Office)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Captain Ricky Blackwood joined law enforcement in 1988 as a Reserve Deputy for the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office. March 31, 2024, will mark his retirement.

In 1991, Blackwood went full-time with the sheriff’s office and that’s where he has remained and rose through the ranks for more than 30 years. 

Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry said as long as he has served Blackwood has been there and he has always been loyal to the CCSO. 

“You don’t find that a lot of times – someone this consistent, this loyal, this hard-working,” Gentry said. “Talking about our relationship, over the last 10 years as sheriff we have had a very close relationship. One that I am thankful for. Whether we are in a stand-off or serving at a senior citizens cook-out, he was always there.” 

With Blackwood retiring, Gentry said the office is going to be different, but he is so thankful for being able to work and serve with him. 

“There will be no one else to wear crazy cowboy outfits, or fun attire like cowboy hats, boots and shirts, and things will definitely be different,” Gentry said. “I do look forward to his retirement – he  deserves this. He has dedicated his life to the CCSO and to the community. His wife, Monica, and his family will have new adventures with retirement. He is respected and will be missed by all, but I look forward to time spent in the future.”

CCSO Director of Communications Chad Whaley said in reference to Blackwood, “Beware the old man in a land where men die young.” 

Explaining, he said, “This quote is typically attributed to an anonymous soldier, but it can easily apply to law enforcement As a career, or a calling, law enforcement is not for the faint of heart. Especially in today’s world, 30-plus year veterans are a dying breed. The stress, danger and all the pitfalls associated with the job make ‘short-timers’ out of most. This is one of the things that makes Captain Ricky Blackwood unique.” 

Whaley said Blackwood embodies “old school.”

“He still believes in people and connections,” he said. “He has grown with the sheriff’s office and Cullman County, as both have seen drastic changes over the past few decades. From patrol to narcotics to investigation to supervision, he has literally seen it all. Despite seeing it all, he didn’t let it make him bitter or hateful (at least not all the time!). Instead he leaned on what mattered – his people and the community. Captain Blackwood cares for the citizens of Cullman County, genuinely cares, more than anyone I have ever been around. No matter what he accomplished in his career, that is what stands out to me the most. I am better because I worked with him, and I am truly honored to call him a friend.”

SRO Andy Wray said Blackwood has been his friend and mentor for over 20 years.

“The countless conversations we have shared, both personal and professional, have been invaluable to me,” Wray said. “His leadership and work ethic have guided many deputies through their careers. His contributions to the sheriff’s office and the citizens of Cullman County are immeasurable.” 

Captain Rex Sorrow said every person has their unique perceptions of others, and when he first met Blackwood several years ago, he learned the importance of being considerate. 

“His temper could ignite instantly, and he would become like a furious Tasmanian devil, showing little patience for even the slightest errors,” Sorrow said. “Throughout my interactions with Captain Blackwood, I have seen him take a firm stance and instruct people to depart the county, never to return. Nevertheless, as I spent more time working alongside him, I could observe his true character. To my delight, I discovered a more personable and amicable side to him that reminded me of the beloved cartoon figure Foghorn Leghorn.” 

Sorrow said Blackwood is quite chatty, often sharing entertaining anecdotes and humor. 

“His playful nature made him lovable, and his Southern hospitality made him a genuine gentleman,” Sorrow said. “As a patrol lieutenant, I had the privilege of working closely with Captain Blackwood for several years. Throughout our time together, we handled a variety of calls, from dangerous shootings and suicides to emotionally charged domestic disputes and break-ins. In addition to these challenging situations, we regularly visited local businesses and senior centers. During these visits, I benefited from Captain Blackwood’s extensive knowledge and experience. He was a remarkable leader who deftly balanced toughness with compassion. When confronted with difficult circumstances, he remained resolute, yet he also knew when to be empathetic and understanding. His ability to navigate complex and delicate situations left a lasting impression on me.”

Sorrow said the sheriff’s office will certainly miss Blackwood, who is highly regarded for his extensive experience, sharp humor and occasional fiery outbursts that only added to his charm.

“His amusing anecdotes and contagious laughter were a regular occurrence in the workplace, leaving a lasting impact on all those fortunate enough to have crossed his path,” Sorrow said. “I will always cherish the favorable impression he left on me. My father-in-law, Doug Warren, once spoke of Captain Blackwood with the utmost admiration, depicting him as the epitome of a true law enforcement officer who embodied the highest ideals of professionalism and commitment to duty. Captain Blackwood’s unwavering commitment to serving his community with integrity and a servant’s heart has left an indelible mark on everyone who knew him, and he will always be remembered as a true hero of the force.”

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