Season 7 began with Bill Gillespie being forced out of office and former Memphis, TN Police Department Inspector Hampton Forbes hired as the new police chief. After nearly three decades on the Sparta police force, the city council decided not to renew Bill’s contract because of his open relationship with Harriet DeLong. However, Gillespie is soon appointed as the acting Sheriff of Newman County when Nathan McComb suffers a heart attack and is too ill to continue his duties.
Hampton Forbes, meanwhile, is getting to know his new town and his new officers, who are not happy that Gillespie is gone. Gillespie’s last official act on his way out the door is to give several of his officers a promotion.
Finally, the marriage of Bill Gillespie and Harriet DeLong takes place in the seventh season.
In the beginning of this season, Virgil is mentioned as being in Jackson getting his law degree. He is often talked about but only seen in three episodes the entire season credited as a special guest star. When Virgil returns to Sparta as an attorney, he and Althea have separated and she has moved back to Philadelphia with the twins. Lonnie Jamison takes over the role of Chief of Detectives in Virgil’s absence.
Notable episodes this season include “A Depraved Heart” about the daughter of a friend of Bubba’s contracting AIDS from someone who knowingly gave it to her, and “Singin’ The Blues” involving Luanne, which includes her singing at a blues club and helping take care of an abandoned baby—with whom she comes to love as her own. It is later revealed that she can not have children of her own and she decides to sign up to be a full-time foster parent.Marla Gibbs guest stars as a Family and Children Services Case Worker. Other episodes include Parker being accused of police brutality, Bubba trying to help his nephew deal with recovering from drugs, a deeper look at Lonnie’s life off the police force which is controlled by his cantankerous Aunt Cora, and Harriet DeLong taking a bigger part in the story lines. Actor/director Larry Hagman directed several episodes.
In “Ches and the Grand Lady” Bobby Short reprises his role as the blues musician from “Sweet, Sweet Blues.” The episode also guest stars Jean Simmons as the dying grand dame of Sparta who also happens to be Ches’ old flame and the overbearing great-aunt of Lonnie Jamison. Another episode involves the return of Maybelle Chesboro,(played by Elizabeth Ashley) the ex-madam. She has returned to operate a legal phone sex business. One of her employees tries to blackmail one of Holly Colmer’s friends and ends up getting shot. Maybelle decides to give up working in the business for good, but not before visiting Bill and attempting to get romantic with him.
The season wraps with the two-hour movie of the week, “Give Me Your Life” starring Peter Fonda as Marcantony Appfel. The story (by O’Connor and written by Cynthia Deming & William J Royce) is loosely based on the real-life drama unfolding in Waco, Texas with David Koresh and his followers.
|#||Title||Director||Writer(s)||Original airdate||Production Code|
|119||“Child’s Play”||Harry Harris||Mitchell Schneider||September 16, 1993||2806|
|Chief Gillespie is fired by the city council and Sparta’s new police chief Hampton Forbes arrives in town. Bill’s last case with Sparta P.D. is a murder investigation in which a young boy has been implicated.|
|120||“Hatton’s Turn: Part 1”||Carroll O’Connor||Carroll O’Connor||September 18, 1993||2809|
|Hampton Forbes assumes the office of Chief of Police and Bill becomes the Sheriff of Newman County. Former Spartan Wade Hatton returns to Sparta hoping to make sense of his life and rekindle his relationship with Sarah Hallisey. Bubba and Covey take the new chief on a tour of Sparta and Bill takes Wade to visit some distant cousins. Meanwhile two young criminals involve a mentally handicapped young man in a terrible crime.|
|121||“Hatton’s Turn: Part 2”||Carroll O’Connor||Carroll O’Connor||September 18, 1993||2810|
|Wade and Sarah try to keep young Henry from being punished for a crime he did not commit and Forbes and his officers search for the two men who are really responsible.|
|122||“A Depraved Heart”||Harry Harris||Cynthia Deming, William J. Royce||September 23, 1993||2805|
|The daughter of an old friend asks Bubba to arrest the man who knowingly gave her AIDS.|
|123||“Incident at Brewer’s Pond”||Russ Mayberry||Terry Kay||September 30, 1993||2801|
|A night of revelry at a local pond turns deadly.|
|124||“A Love Lost”||Larry Hagman||Joe Gannon||October 14, 1993||2807|
|Lana’s ex- boyfriend comes to see her and brings a load of stolen rifles with him.|
|125||“Singin’ the Blues”||Gail Liberti-Kennedy||Cynthia Deming||October 28, 1993||2813|
|Luann moonlights as a singer at a nightclub and finds romance with the clubs owner. Her happiness is short-lived when she realizes that the bartender is dealing drugs.|
|126||“Virgil Tibbs: Attorney at Law”||Charles Mills||Mitchell Schneider||November 4, 1993||2812|
|Attorney Virgil Tibbs returns to Sparta and is soon assigned his first case as a defense attorney.|
|127||“Every Man’s Family”||Harry Harris||Cynthia Deming, William J. Royce||November 10, 1993||2815|
|Bubba travels to Atlanta to help his nephew after the boy overdoses on drugs. He soon teams up with a street wise cop to take down the drug ring.|
|128||“A Baby Called Rocket”||Paul Chavez||Gina Barnett||October 25, 1993||2814|
|A neglected baby stirs maternal feelings in Luann.|
|129||“Little Girl Lost”||Larry Hagman||Denise Nicholas||December 9, 1993||2819|
|Tragic story of an alcoholic teen who accidentally kills a little girl while she is drinking and driving.|
|130||“Your Own Kind”||Dick Martin||Denise Nicholas||December 16, 1993||2808|
|Gillespie and Forbes investigate the attempted shooting of an interracial high school couple. Meanwhile, Harriet holds a fundraiser to raise money for pregnant teens at her art studio.|
|131||“Good Cop, Bad Cop”||Winrich Kolbe||Cynthia Deming||January 6, 1994||2823|
|Virgil defends Parker after he is falsely accused of police brutality by a drug dealer. The prosecution’s main witness – the man’s girlfriend, who was once engaged to Parker.|
|132||“Maybelle Returns”||Russ Mayberry||Joe Gannon||January 12, 1994||2811|
|Maybelle’s new phone sex business is a great success – until one of her girls decides to moonlight as a prostitute.|
|133||“The Last Round”||Reza Badiyi||Mitchell Schneider||January 19, 1994||2817|
|Forbes is delighted when his fiancée Angela comes to see him, but is disappointed when he realizes that they have very different plans for the future.|
|134||“Ches and the Grand Lady”||Vincent McEveety||Carroll O’Connor||January 26, 1994||2818|
|Follow up to “Sweet, Sweet Blues”. Lonnie must protect his Aunt Cordelia when her cherished friendship with Ches Collins angers one of his cousins.|
|135||“Conspiracy of One”||Joe Gannon||Joe Gannon||February 2, 1994||2820|
|Virgil accepts a position at a prominent law firm. But as a former police officer he feels conflicting emotions when he realizes that one of their clients is guilty of murder.|
|136||“The Rabbi”||Winrich Kolbe||David O’Connor, Elyse O’Connor||February 9, 1994||2816|
|A Rabbi returns to Sparta after many years. Racists vandalize his synagogue and soon after their Torah is stolen. Forbes investigates but the Rabbi refuses to trust Bill because of his inaction while investigating a hate crime many years ago.|
|137||“Hard Choices”||Russ Mayberry||Gina Barnett||March 9, 1994||2802|
|Eugene tries to protect a friend who was an unwilling accomplice to a robbery and in doing so endangers his probation — and his life.|
|138||“Time’s Long Shadow”||Paul Chavez||David O’Connor, Elyse O’Connor||March 16, 1994||2803|
|Harriet tries to stop an arrogant developer from destroying an important archeological site.|
|139||“Poor Relations”||Reza Badiyi||Denise Nicholas, Carroll O’Connor||March 30, 1994||2822|
|Follow up to “A Step Removed”. Comedic episode in which Parker’s ne’er-do-well stepfather returns to Sparta with a new wife, a stolen painting and two inept art thieves who are determined to steal the painting back.|
|140||“Dangerous Engagement”||Vincent McEveety||Mitchell Schneider||May 4, 1994||2821|
|Bill and Harriet’s wedding plans are interrupted by a sniper who mistakes Bill for Sheriff McComb.|
|141||“Give Me Your Life: Part 1”||Russ Mayberry||John Ball, Cynthia Deming, Carroll O’Connor, William J. Royce||May 11, 1994||2824A|
|Bill and Harriet travel to New Orleans for their honeymoon. Forbes learns that a cult which has rented an old school building may be involved in child abuse and other illegal activities. While inspecting the premises Bubba and Dee rescue a frightened young girl. Bubba finds a foster home for the girl but the girl’s mother tries to regain custody in court – with Sarah Hallisey as their attorney.|
|142||“Give Me Your Life: Part 2”||Russ Mayberry||John Ball, Cynthia Deming, Carroll O’Connor, William J. Royce||May 11, 1994||2824B|
|Bill and Harriet return home. The cult kidnaps the girl from her foster home. And Forbes and his men arrest a man who has been supplying drugs used to keep the cult members under control. Soon a standoff develops and the officers realize that they have no intention of surrendering. Sarah is taken hostage. As they attempt to rescue the women and children Lonnie and Parker find themselves defusing a bomb and Bubba risks his life to rescue a small child from the building.|