Ronald “Gun” Ficklin, a former sheriff of St. Helena Parish, died Thursday morning in federal prison in North Carolina, family members confirmed.

Ficklin, 57, had been battling cancer for “four or five months,” his daughter, Melissa Ficklin Clark, said.

“The Sheriff’s Office is deeply sad he passed on,” St. Helena Sheriff Nat Williams said Friday. “He would give you the shirt off his back.”

Williams served as chief criminal deputy when Ficklin was sheriff, and was elected to the office after Ficklin was convicted.

Ficklin was the mayor of Greensburg for 14 years before becoming sheriff.

Ficklin pleaded guilty in federal court in February 2007 to 17 criminal counts, including altering vehicle identification numbers, mail fraud and helping a convicted felon possess a firearm. He admitted putting state inmates to work in an illegal chop shop and as his personal race-car pit crew.

Ficklin was sentenced to five years in prison.

He would have been released in June of next year, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ website.

Ficklin was the third St. Helena Sheriff convicted of federal charges. Predecessors Chaney Phillips and Eugene Holland both spent time in prison.

Ficklin was Phillips’ chief criminal deputy until Phillips began serving his term in a federal penitentiary.

Ficklin briefly served as interim sheriff after Phillips stepped down. St. Helena Parish voters elected Ficklin to four-year terms 1999 and again in 2003.

Funeral arrangements had not been completed as of Friday afternoon, Melissa Ficklin Clark said.