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Lifestyles

March 1, 2012

Dynasty draws to an end: Coots name missing on ballot for Clark County coroner; family has held office for all but two years since 1888

JEFFERSONVILLE — For more than a century, the Coots family has almost exclusively held the position of coroner in Clark County. That tradition will change next year.

Due to term limits, Edwin “Huck” Coots IV is not eligible to run for a third-consecutive term. Coots, 51, has served as coroner or deputy coroner for 27 years. He and his father traded the position back and forth since the early 1990s.

“My dad has reached the age where he can’t really do the job,” Coots said. “And unfortunately timing-wise, my son is in college.”

His 21-year-old son, Edwin “Tucker” Coots V, has shown interest in the position, but is a student at Bellarmine University and wants to focus on his studies.

“It is hard knowing that tradition will be broken this election. In the past, my father and grandfather were able to switch and ready to take on the responsibility of coroner,” Coots said.

The first Edwin M. Coots moved from Shelbyville, Ky., to Jeffersonville in 1860 and founded E.M. Coots’ Sons Funeral Home. He was elected coroner in 1888. Since then, no one outside the Coots family has been coroner except for two years in the late 1920s.

Huck Coots was a member of the governor-appointed Indiana Coroners’ Association Board for 10 years. He served as president of the association last year and is now vice president.

During that time, Coots said the association successfully pushed for laws mandating coroners and deputy coroners to receive training. Until five years ago, coroners were not required to have any training.

The primary responsibility of the coroner is to determine a cause of death. Coots said they have 10 times more coroner’s cases now than when he started because of the growth of the county and number of deaths for which the coroner is called.

“The job has become a whole lot more complex,” Coots said.

Coots has endorsed New Albany Police Department Detective John Hall, who will run unopposed as a Democrat for coroner. Terry Conway and Mark Goodlett will compete for the Republican nomination. Coots will stay on as deputy coroner and mentor if Hall is elected, and he may run again in four years.

“Who knows what the future holds,” he said. “There’s definitely a possibility.”

Coots said he finds being coroner “very rewarding.”

“We see a family at a very difficult time, and I try to make it as easy on them as I can,” he said. “We are honored that the community has put their faith in us for so many years, and speaking for all generations involved, we were happy to serve Clark County.”

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