Cleburne, TX – A 97-year-old Texas deputy with over 74 years on the job has been recognized as the “oldest working law enforcement officer in the world,” according to the Chisholm Trail Museum.
Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Hardin said he is feeling “pretty good for an old guy,” and that he has no intention of retiring from the force, KTVT reported.
“I’m going to keep doing this until the sheriff runs me out,” he told the news outlet. “If I can make it to 75, I may go ahead and retire.”
Deputy Hardin’s law enforcement career began in the 1947, when he joined the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD), he said during a 2018 interview.
He can still recall his first day on the job.
“They were only hiring people who were at least 23 years old. I was only 22, but I was going to be 23 in a month, so they went ahead and hired me,” Deputy Hardin told the Cleburne Times-Review in 2013.
“When I got on the bus, I was in full uniform, except for my cap shield and my badge. When I got [to the red granite building that housed the police department], they gave me my cap shield, my badge, a call box key and a plastic whistle,” he said. “I worked a six-day week, and I made $165 a month.”
While working as a FWPD narcotics officer in 1970, he and a group of fellow officers founded the Texas Narcotics Officers Association.
He also worked as a police academy instructor during his FWPD career.
After retiring from Fort Worth in 1985, Deputy Hardin went on to serve another eight years at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office before he again retired, the Cleburne Times-Review reported.
Deputy Hardin then joined the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, and will celebrate his 27th year with the department in June.
Other members of Deputy Hardin’s family have also dedicated their lives to law enforcement, beginning with his uncle.
Deputy Hardin and his two brothers all served alongside one another at FWPD, working a combined total of 115 years at that department, the Cleburne Times-Review reported.
His nephew served with the Arlington Police Department, and his late daughter worked as a dispatcher.
The Chisholm Trail Museum recently unveiled a new exhibit featuring Deputy Hardin, who is believed to be the oldest working law enforcement officer in the history of the world, KTVT reported.
Johnson County Sheriff Adam King described Deputy Hardin as a “people-person” who takes the time to talk with the local citizens he serves.
“We want him to know that he is important to us and he’s important to the community,” Sheriff King told KTVT.
Deputy Hardin said he is humbled and appreciative of the honor.
During his 2018 interview, Deputy Hardin acknowledged that society has changed a lot during his seven decades of service.
“When I [first started], there was, more or less, a respect – more than now – for police officers,” he explained. “You didn’t have that much to worry about. But the way things are right now, I would say that you would have to be 100 percent alert at all times.”
He said that developing that alertness is a must for new officers.
“The first thing I’d do would have them to be sure that they can see out of the back of their head,” Deputy Hardin said. “You know, you gotta wonder what’s going on behind you.”
“I’ve learned over the years, it’s not the body inside the uniform, it’s the uniform,” he told KTVT. “I don’t understand why…every time you get out on the street, you’re a target.”