|“||Parker, give me Willard Fenchum. Tell him it's his old golfing partner Tom Dugan. If he wants any more mulligans, he better get his butt on the phone.||„|
|~ Dugan getting a search warrant|
Tom Dugan was a character who was featured in the final four episodes of the second season of In the Heat of the Night.
Recently retired from the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Dugan stepped in to assist the Sparta Police Department while their chief Bill Gillespie was away at a convention. He first assisted the department in an unofficial capacity after a group of teenagers were hit by a drunk driver who left the scene of an accident. With his assistance the police found that the district attorney had been responsible and arrested him.
The city council soon appointed Dugan to stand in for the chief. This was secretly done at the behest of the FBI as Dugan was working with them to foil a plot by white supremacists to assassinate a civil rights leader, as well as to get his nephew away from these people.
Dugan helped investigate a case where a wealthy recluse was suspected of several murders. It was later determined that the suspect had died some time ago and that his son was the serial killer who killed him and the others.
When the white supremacists kidnapped Chief Gillespie both Virgil Tibbs and Bubba Skinner began to believe that perhaps Dugan was working with the white supremacists. They went to confront Dugan, however the FBI agent in charge stopped them and informed both men of what Dugan was doing and why. Dugan meanwhile had left to meet up with the supremacists, not realizing it was a trap. Lured out into a wooded area two of the white supremacists shot Dugan multiple times, killing him.
A short while later Gillespie was released unharmed. Tibbs told the FBI agent that if he had been told sooner what was going on he might have been able to keep Dugan alive. When Dugan's nephew was arrested the white supremacists tried to kill him but failed, and Dugan's nephew agreed to testify against them. The Sparta PD were able to keep them from murdering the civil rights leader.
- The Dugan character was devised as a stand in for Carroll O'Connor, who had to miss several episodes recovering from open heart surgery. Gillespie's absence during this time was explained as him being away at a convention out east.