From Navy to police to sheriff, a look at J.B. Smith's career

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Courtney Lane - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It has been a long ride for Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith, as he would put it, and a lot has happened under his watch since 1976. Tuesday morning he announced he will not be seeking re-election.

After serving in the Navy, J.B. Smith began his law enforcement career as a police officer in San Diego, California. Traveling through Texas, he fell in love with Tyler and decided to stay.

"The United States Navy gave me my start in life, but it was Tyler, Texas that I really started living," said Smith.

He joined the Tyler police in 1970 and was soon elected Smith County Sheriff. At times a rocky road, Sheriff Smith says "it's been a hard horse to ride."

"Because when you're on top there's always people shooting at you, believe me," said Smith. "I've been a victim of dirty politics on more than one occasion but, gosh, what a great ride it's been."

In the early 80's, Sheriff Smith came under fire for things like using inmates on his ranch and the power of his office for personal gain. After being out of office a couple of years, charges were dropped and Smith was reinstated in 1983.

"It's probably the best Christmas present I've ever had," said Smith in a 1983 interview. "It's 10 days early but I'm happy."

Tuesday, he reflected on the ups and downs of his career.

"Yeah, I was in and out, in and out because of the fight with the district attorney but that ended and I was re-elected again...but that went on for two years," he said.

Andy Dunklin, now a Smith County constable, ran against Sheriff Smith twice.

"[I] got a third of the vote...people felt like Sheriff Smith wasn't fiscally conservative enough," said Dunklin.

But, voters decided otherwise, re-electing J.B. Smith, a man who has managed to maintain the high position for more than 30 years.

"I think it's the charm," said Dunklin. "He's an influential speaker."

Even after this ninth and final term is up, Sheriff Smith says he is not stepping down from some type of public service.

"I want to continue serving the people of this community until I die," he said.

Sheriff Smith still has approximately two years and seven months left in his term.

Copyright 2010 KLTV. All rights reserved.