Living Legend No. 63 – Jerome R. (Jerry) Selmer

Jerome R. (Jerry) Selmer

Westerners International Living Legend No. 63 Jerome R. (Jerry) Selmer


Jerry Selmer (1933-2018) joined the Los Angeles Corral of Westerners International in the Fall of 1975, at the invitation of former Sheriff Sid Platford. Long before that, however, he was a friend and admirer of Homer Britzman. Britzman founded the Los Angeles Corral in 1946, and lived in Charlie Russell’s old house, surrounded by wonderful works of art by that brilliant Western artist. Jerry was Britzman’s neighbor, and it was while visiting the Britzman/Russell house that the “western bug” first bit the much younger Selmer.

Jerry Selmer was a 3rd generation Californian who always made his home in the Los Angeles area. How his family got to the Golden State is a riveting tale still awaiting publication, involving final farewells from the 1862 Shiloh battlefield written in human blood, and a shipwreck, marooning, and miraculous rescue from the freezing wastes of Tierra del Fuego. Hope springs eternal that even though Jerry has left us, his son John, a second-generation Los Angeles Corral member and former Sheriff, may yet be motivated to write down his remarkable family history and publish it.

Jerry attended Pasadena City College, then UCLA, where he graduated with a B.A. in Public Administration in 1955. Also in the ROTC, he traded his cap and gown for a 2nd Lieutenant’s uniform in the U.S. Army. After promotion to 1st Lieutenant, Selmer finished his military obligation in the California National Guard as a Captain. As an officer he became proficient as an instructor of enlisted personnel, a skill that was seamlessly transferred into civilian life. Jerry worked for the City of Los Angeles, rising up through the ranks over a 31-year career culminating in the post of Assistant City Administrator, the Mayor’s “go to” guy for 42,000+ city employees and 25 separate Unions. Here again, Selmer’s mediation skills spared one Los Angeles Mayor after another a great many headaches, and aided the smooth functioning of America’s second-largest city.

Selmer served in many different Los Angeles Corral positions, including Wrangler and Registrar, mentored by former Sheriffs Everett Hager and Elwood “Dutch” Holland, before becoming Deputy Sheriff in 1984, and Sheriff in 1985. During his tenure as Sheriff, Jerry planned the Corral’s 40th anniversary, and served as the chair of the committee that ensured that this important landmark was celebrated to the pleasure and satisfaction of all. So successful was he in this effort that Jerry was called back twenty years later to plan and execute the Corral’s 60th Anniversary, and, most recently, in 2016, its 70th. Jerry Selmer also personally recruited at least a half-dozen new members into the Los Angeles Corral, including his son John, who became Sheriff in 2016, and Jim Macklin, the hardest-working Keeper of the Chips our Corral has ever had, who also later moved on into the Sheriff’s slot.

Jerry published articles in the Branding Iron, including an insightful review of our Corral’s own history. He also contributed dozens of insightful book reviews to that same quarterly journal, which for nearly forty years have sent readers off in search of worthwhile, recently published, books on Western Americana. Selmer was also responsible for another kind of writing, the revision of the Corral’s Range Rules. This task could only have been done with the aid of another one of Jerry’s greatest gifts: his tried and true ability to find consensus amongst the bewildering variety of opinions generated within any large voluntary association such as the Westerners.

Selmer was a talented and captivating public speaker. He was the invited lecturer to the Los Angeles Corral at its monthly round-ups on topics as diverse as The History of the Southwest Museum and Charles Lummis, The Civil War in the West, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, and the Penitentes of New Mexico. His research interests were broad, incorporating western mining, ghost towns, American Indian culture history, and Western American art.

Jerry and his beloved wife Doris were married for 62 happy years. Very much a team, together they were active not only in the Westerners, but also the Zamorano Club, the Friends of Arcadia Public Library, the Arcadia Historical Society, the Miniature Book Society, and, the San Dimas Festival of Western Art, an annual event where Jerry served as Judge. The Selmers for more than six decades also engaged in their passion for travel throughout their beloved West, not just within the United States, but also in Canada and Mexico, usually far from the beaten track, seeking out remnants of the past still lingering into the present.

Upon his retirement from the City of Los Angeles, Jerry became the Executive Director of the Southwest Museum, the oldest and most prestigious museum of the Los Angeles Area. He guided it for four years through its most difficult period over the century-plus of its existence. Long before this, however, he exercised his teaching skills within the City of Los Angeles employee training program, mostly in public administration, and then expanded the number and nature of his lectures to include regular presentations at Los Angeles City College, the Southwest Museum itself, and the University of Southern California. Selmer also served on the City of Arcadia Public Library Board, the Friends of Mission San Fernando Archival Center, and as an honored advisor to the City of Los Angeles ’Contracting Procedures.

Jerry Selmer, through his wise counsel and vast experience, mentored a great many Los Angeles Corral members, officers, and Sheriffs, including the writer of this brief summary. His firm hand on the tiller guided our Corral through the rocks and shoals periodically encountered during his more than four decades of active service, and he always brought us through the occasional storms to calm waters. Jerry’s immense contribution to the Los Angeles Corral was recognized in 2018 when he was made the 63rd Living Legend of Westerners International, shortly before he left his many friends and admirers for the final time.


By Brian Dervin Dillon, Ph.D., 2017, revised 2022.