- Jim Hodges
is packing up plaques, pictures and other memorabilia that have accumulated in his
office at the Refugio County Courthouse during his
24-year career as sheriff.His
retirement ends about 44 years of service to the county through law enforcement.
was born in Refugio
68 years ago, and except for a two-year stint with the U.S. Army
has lived here all his
cites 1953 as the most exciting of his
school years.He was a senior and member of the school's football team.
...Returning to Refugio after his tour of duty, Hodges worked in the oilfields for a short time and then went to work for Reynolds Aluminum.
After about a year with the company, a strike was called and Hodges
was out of work.Back in Refugio, he went to work for the police department.
"They were looking for someone and I was looking for something."
However, that only lasted a couple of months, and when the strike was over he
headed back to Reynolds.He
was earning $750 a month and that was an awful lot of money.
Before long, he
was offered a job in the sheriff's department.The job paid $300 a month and another $175 if you furnished your own car.
On Jan. 1, 1959, Hodges
went to work for Sheriff R.M. Harsdorff.
...It was during his years as chief deputy that Hodges was invited to attend the FBI Academy in Washington, D.C.He remembers being nervous when asking the sheriff for a three-month leave in order to attend.
"I thought he
would tell me no, but he
said, 'Go ahead and go.'"
The year was 1967, and until this day, Hodges
in the only person in Refugio
County law enforcement to go through the academy's training program.
"To go through all that law enforcement and training they give you up there, it really put law enforcement in my blood."First elected sheriff in 1976, Hodges lost in his first bid for re-election to J. Bauer.
Four years later, Hodges
was re-elected.While Hodges doesn't normally wear hats, his employees gave him a beautiful white Stetson in 1993 when he was elected president of the Texas Sheriff's Association.Hodges had already served seven years on the association's board of directors.
More recently, his
employees gave him a black Stetson."It's real fancy.I put on my tux and wore it."A big grin creased his
doesn't wear hats often, "I always carry one in the car, just in case," he
During the 1990s, seized drugs and drug money kept Hodges
employees in the news.One massive seizure of $4.3 million led to his
being able to build a new 60-bed county jail at no cost to the taxpayer.
During those years, Hodges
office was bringing in an average of about $1 million a year.
During the years when drug traffickers were streaming up and down U.S. Highway 77, Hodges
had a force of 16 deputies.
...In 1994, Hodges was named chairman of the state's cold case squad.
The team of 16 included Department of Public Safety crime lab specialists, Texas Rangers and experts in other fields of law enforcement.
"We got the homicide cases others couldn't solve."He
remembers that working with and watching the group as they went about solving crimes was an incredible experience.
The closest Hodges can remember of getting in trouble with the law was an incident of going into Mexico and "kidnapping" a 4-year-old girl.
The father had become unbalanced and fled into Mexico with the child.Other relatives asked Hodges
and a deputy headed south.The child's mother also headed to Mexico to assist the two lawmen.
and the deputy waited for the wife to "lure" the child from the house, two local cops showed up and began questioning the Refugio
pair.They were suspicious of Hodges' tobacco spit-cup, thinking it contained drugs.One officer started to take a sip from the cup and Hodges
, said, "No!No!Don't drink that!"Hodges
finally convinced the officers that they were "waiting for a friend," and they left.
In 2000, Hodges
suffered a stroke brought on by diabetes.After months of therapy, he
came through the ordeal and was able to return to his
Last year, there was the heartbreaking loss of both his
mother and his
wife, Nellie, of 48 years.
More recently, he
has undergone surgery to remove two toes, also caused by diabetes.He
has since remarried, to Betty, a friend he
has known for many years.He