Jim Wall didn’t just protect people in need over his more than 50 years at the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department. He saved the county more than a quarter-million dollars.
That estimate most likely does not cover all the hours Wall gave to his community, Sheriff Chris Newton said. The calculation only takes into consideration the minimum hours a reserve deputy must log in order to wear the badge.
Newton said Wall has gone above the department’s expectations. As Wall prepares to turn over his badge, Newton said he’ll always remember him for his servant leadership, family values, selflessness, humor and strong character.
“It’s about giving. It’s not about taking. I think anyone who volunteers their time to the community – and the safety of their community – doesn’t wear one hat, but multiple hats. I think that’s a quality that’s lost in today’s society,” Newton said of Wall. “Everybody in today’s world seems to be selfish. It’s all about me. I think in Jim’s generation, it was never about that. It was always about what can I do to benefit my community.”
By day, Wall was a truck driver for Yellow Freight Systems. By night, he was a reserve deputy, working free of charge to protect his community.
“I worked for Yellow Freight Systems. I was an old nasty truck driver. I’d go out there and scare all of these people out on the highway. Then at night I would put my uniform on and really start to scare them,” Wall said jokingly as he and the entire room let out a laugh.
Newton said Wall has always had the utmost respect for the badge and his community, and he said his humor is just as strong as his work ethic.
Wall would rush out of bed after a full shift as a truck driver to extricate people trapped in vehicles, only to go into work at 6 a.m. and hit the road again.
“You might get called out at one, two, three o’clock in the morning,” Wall said.
He’d agree to come in for a couple hours, only to leave nine hours later.
“Well those days of coming in and just working a couple hours was for the birds because it never worked out that way. You was either in there for six or nine hours,” he said. “Then you’d go to work. Here I am driving a semi. Sometimes it felt like I’d have to pull my eyes open.”
On top of road patrol duties, Newton said Wall was an integral part of Huntington County’s rescue unit, which was operated by HCSD using mostly reserves.
“Anytime there was a crash involving someone pinned in a vehicle, our volunteer squad would go out to the scene,” Newton said. “Our volunteer fire departments didn’t have the equipment at the time, so we had a centralized squad. It was all operated by them, and Jim was on the forefront of doing that.”
Wall did this for more than 52 years. Through his tenure, he’s seen nine people shuffle in and out of the sheriff’s position, something Newton says is remarkable.
“There’s been 40 sheriffs since the department began in the 1800s. He’s worked for nine of them,” Newton said. “That’s pretty impressive.”
Wall said it was the bond he built with both the community and the department that kept him going all those years.
“That’s what’s nice about being in a small department. People aren’t just a name. You actually get to know the families. I’d say Jim can reiterate the fact that being from a small department and it’s not just coming in to do the job – it’s getting to know so many people,” Newton said. “You don’t just get to know that person. I know his wife, I know his kids, I know his family history. We get to know everybody. So every time a new reserve comes on, your family gets a little bigger and bigger.”
Newton said the job isn’t always easy working for a rural sheriff’s department. He said unlike city units and larger counties, an HCSD deputy might be the only one responding to a call.
He said oftentimes, his deputies play the role of enforcer, mediator, psychologist, neighbor and counselor.
“It can be intimidating. You’ve got to have the right personality to be able to go out there and not only have to arrest an individual that doesn’t want to go to jail but also console them when they are at their worst. Jim has always been that guy,” Newton said.
Now that Wall is retiring, Newton said he’s going to miss his humor and company.
“It’s bittersweet. I’ve known Jim for so long. Ever since I’ve been here, he’s been here,” Newton said. “I remember being new and jumping into that driver’s seat and having Jim say, ‘Slide over. I’m driving.’”
Wall quickly pointed out that he’s known Newton for much longer than Newton’s known him.
“I’ve known him ever since he was born,” Wall interrupted. “We’ve had a lot of fun together, haven’t we?”
As Wall puts his badge down, he hopes more people in the community, especially the younger generation, think about joining the reserves or helping out their community in any way they can. He said he’s gotten a lot out of his service, and he thinks it could help many other people too.
“I’d like to see some younger guys volunteer into the sheriff’s reserves,” he said. “There’s a lot of training that they can get.”
Overall, Wall, an Army veteran, said he’s been blessed to have the opportunity to serve his community for more than 52 years.
When I think about what I’ve gotten out of this, I think about all of the upstanding people in Huntington. We have a lot of good people in our county,” he said. “It makes it all worth it.”