In the fourth season, Carroll O’Connor took complete control of the show by firing the entire writing staff, except for Cynthia Deming and William J Royce, making them Story Editor(s).

The season begins with the birth of Virgil and Althea’s twins. William and Sarah Tibbs were welcomed into the world on September 18, 1990. While Althea was waiting to go into labor, Tibbs’s friend from the Philadelphia police force is murdered and he heads up to the “big city” to clear his friend’s name, only to be arrested himself. It is now up to Chief Gillespie to find out the truth, clear Virgil’s name, and make it home in time.

Other topics this season include the murder of a prostitute; a teacher falsely accused of molesting a child, who commits suicide when he is fired from his job in spite of his proven innocence; a woman with an intellectual disability getting pregnant and burying her child; the introduction of Bobby Johnson, after his brother is killed in a drug shootout; a scam involving another one of Virgil’s friends; a bounty hunter; and a serial rapist stalking Sparta.

Virgil arrests his cousin, who shoots himself in the struggle for a gun, becomes a paraplegic, and goes to prison. The boy’s mother, Virgil’s Aunt Ruda, blames Virgil for the incident and cuts herself off from the rest of the family, insisting, “There ain’t no family. Not for me…not no more”

Another story involves the conviction of Harriet DeLong’s ex-husband Vic for plotting to rob his former employer in a revenge scheme. Three men, on a misty Sunday morning, shoot a security guard at the Lambry plant and steal a bundle of money waiting to be paid out on Monday morning. Harriet’s son Eugene also gets involved when he tries to assist his father and almost loses his life. The case brings Bill and Harriet closer together, while it drives a wedge between Harriet and Eugene. As the relationship between Harriet and Bill begins to evolve, all of Sparta wonders how a relationship like that could exist and be accepted in the South. Harriet’s ex-husband eventually gets the death penalty for his crime, leaving Harriet and her son at odds. They continue to resent each other because of conflicting loyalties to Vic and Bill.

The season closes with Althea almost having a breakdown over the stress of Virgil’s job on the police force after he is almost killed by a stray bullet and does not tell her about it. On top of that, she is also worried that her children will grow up without their father, and she begs him to try something different. Chief Gillespie burns up the wires and gets Virgil on his way to law school, and Althea apologizes for not being more understanding as she & Virgil share a glass of wine together.

# Title Director Writer(s) Original airdate Production Code
53 “Brotherly Love: Part 1” Harry Harris William Royce September 18, 1990 3805A
Virgil goes to Philadelphia to investigate a friends death. And Bubba (reluctantly) fills in as Althea’s Lamaze coach.
54 “Brotherly Love: Part 2” Harry Harris Cynthia Deming September 18, 1990 3805B
Virgil is framed for murder and Gillespie travels to Philly to help him clear his name.
55 “Lessons Learned” Mario Azzopardi Cynthia Deming September 25, 1990 3802
Gillespie sends Parker to confirm suspicions that a local truck stop is really a front for a prostitution business. When a young prostitute is found dead Gillespie is shocked at her fathers reaction. Parker is dismayed when he recognizes one of the ladies.
56 “Perversions of Justice” Harry Harris Robert Bielak October 2, 1990 3810
A mild mannered school teacher is accused of child molestation.
57 “And Justice For Some” Harry Harris William Royce, Michael Thurman October 23, 1990 3803
Gillespie and his officers are outraged when a drug courier who ran down the son of Virgil’s next door neighbor makes a deal with the F.B.I. to avoid prosecution.
58 “Heart of Gold” Russ Mayberry Mitchell Schneider October 30, 1990 3815
Bubba is reunited with his high school sweetheart, but his happiness is short lived after she resorts to murder to silence an attorney who was threatening to stop her from inheriting her late husband’s estate.
59 “Quick Fix” Winrich Kolbe Julie Friedgen November 6, 1990 3809
The investigation into the death of an abandoned infant leads to a mentally handicapped teenager.
60 “Homecoming” Russ Mayberry Robert Bielak November 13, 1990 3817
A lawyer has personal reasons for trying to gain early release for a man who was sent to prison after an accident he caused while drinking and driving.
61 “A Problem Too Personal” Winrich Kolbe Carroll O’Connor November 20, 1990 3819
Harriet and Eugene are devastated after Gene’s father is arrested for murder.
62 “A Final Arrangement” Leo Penn David Hamilton, Peter Telep November 27, 1990 3814
Sweet is heartbroken when an elderly woman who befriended him is murdered in her bookstore.
63 “Family Matters” Vincent McEveety Mitchell Schneider December 4, 1990 3812
Virgil’s dream of a better relationship with his Aunt Ruda and her son is shattered when his cousin takes part in a string of burglaries that result in murder.
64 “Bounty Hunter” Russ Mayberry Cynthia Deming, William Royce December 11, 1990 3818
Gillespie receives word that a former Spartan is wanted for the murder of a socialite in Houston. But a ruthless bounty hunter, sent by the victim’s jealous husband is already in Sparta and sees the man’s sister as a means to locate his quarry.
65 “Blessings” David Soul Walton Dornisch December 18, 1990 3826
In this Christmas episode the officers share memories with a reporter from the Sparta Herald.
66 “Shine on Sparta Moon” Leo Penn Robert Bielak January 8, 1991 3822
A bottle of spiked moonshine leads to an accident that claims the life of one teen and blinds another.
67 “An Execution of Trust” Leo Penn Mitchell Schneider January 15, 1991 3823
A psychiatrist tells Gillespie that one of her patients has confessed to a crime that another man is about to be executed for, but she refuses to divulge his identity.
68 “Child of Promise” Vincent McEveety Cynthia Deming February 5, 1991 3820
A story of two brothers as they struggle to influence a younger sibling. The first is an honor student that Althea has great plans for, the other a dangerous drug dealer.
69 “Paper Castles” Vincent McEveety Arthur Bernard Lewis February 12, 1991 3801
Virgil soon regrets telling an old friend that his new business partners are being investigated by the police.
70 “Laid to Waste” Vincent McEveety Cynthia Deming, William Royce February 19, 1991 3824
Parker protects a blind woman who heard her neighbors murder.
71 “First Deadly Sin” Peter Salim Julie Friedgen February 26, 1991 3821
A serial rapist stalks Sparta.
72 “Just a Country Boy” Carroll O’Connor Carroll O’Connor March 19, 1991 3811
Bubba travels to Los Angeles to arrest an arsonist. When the man is murdered to keep him from talking Bubba teams up with a pretty insurance investigator to solve the crime.
73 “No Other Road” Paul Chavez Carroll O’Connor March 26, 1991 3824
Harriet tries to keep Eugene from giving up when his father faces the death penalty. And the police search for three suspects in connection to a robbery/murder.
74 “A Turning” Paul Chavez Joe Gannon, Carroll O’Connor April 30, 1991 3827
Althea thinks Virgil needs a new line of work after seeing the aftermath of a deadly shooting at a roadhouse. Virgil finds himself in danger when they arrest the man who committed the crime.

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