When Wayne Johnson was growing up, he never imagined he would spend the bulk of his working life in law enforcement.
Wayne grew up in Childress, for the most part and then his family moved to Brownfield, where he graduated from high school. After graduation, Wayne did a variety of things. He lived in Fort Worth for five years building houses. “The whole time I was working, I was saving to be able come back to Brownfield,” stated Wayne.
He came back to Brownfield and went to work for Pioneer Natural Gas, which is now Atmos Energy. Then he worked at BJ Hughes until a period of layoffs began. It was at that point, in 1987, he applied for a part-time position at the Terry County Sherif”s Office working for Sheriff Ralph Murray. “I was the part-time jailer,” said Wayne. “I thought it was a pretty good job. But I had never once thought in my life that I would ever be wearing a badge or carrying a gun.” But, nearly 34 years later, it became his life’s work.
Wayne started at the Sheriff’s Office in May of 87 as part-time and by March of 1988, he was a full-time employee. He earned his Peace Officer’s License in 1988. “That was a thrill for sure,” said Wayne. He eventually went on to earn his Master Peace Officer and Master Jailer licenses.
He has seen many changes in his time in the Terry County Sheriff’s Office. For one, the new jail. “I started working on the third floor of the Courthouse. There were 14 beds in that old jail. The big move to the Terry County Law Enforcement Center was an exciting time. We went from 14 beds to being able to house over 90 inmates. It was great.”
Wayne has worked for four sheriff’s in his time at the Sheriff’s Office. “I worked for Ralph to start with, then Jerry (Johnson), Larry (Gilbreath), and now Tim (current Sheriff Click). They have all been different but they were all great to work for. I have learned from each one of them.”
He has seen changes in the clientele as well. “The criminal mind has changed. It is getting to where it is a harder mindset we are working with in many cases. The heartbreaking thing to me is when I see generation after generation repeating the same thing over and over.” Wayne stated he had one instance where he had three generations of one family incarcerated at the same time. “We had the grandfather, the father and the son all in at the same time. Just heartbreaking to see it all repeating itself and the generations not learning the lessons of those before them.”
Wayne told a few stories of his experiences as the jailer. “One that just broke my heart was watching a family stand and cry as their young son had got caught up in a drug situation and ended up being charged with accessory to murder. That was hard to watch. This young man had so much potential.” The young man of which he spoke has since turned his life around and is changing young lives himself now.
Folks who have been around a while might remember the name of Henry Lee Lucas. He was an apparent serial killer in the area and was charged with a murder of a young girl in Brownfield. Lucas did admit to killing the girl, but later recanted and was found to be admitting to any murder to which he was accused. “I was there when all that was going on and I just never really believed he had committed the Brownfield murder. He was to a point where he didn’t care and was just admitting to doing anything,” stated Wayne. Lucas has since died.
Wayne also has seen the crimes changing a bit too. “We are seeing lots more drug charges now than when I started and we are seeing so many child pornography charges. These things just scare me to death. I worry about where we are headed.”
Overall, Wayne has certainly enjoyed his time as a jailer. “It has been good. Like I said, I never thought I would be in law enforcement. I have learned a lot through my years. I have worked with some really good people. I have enjoyed being able to serve the County.”
Wayne stated that seeing what he saw on a daily basis made him want to be sure his children learned a good work ethic and make sure they knew right from wrong. It appears he did a pretty good job with that.
He and his wife Nancy, who he married in 1974, had two children. Daughter Laura is a Special Education Teacher and her partner Natalie works at the Lubbock DPS office. Son Jason works for Major Crimes Unit at the Lubbock Sheriff’s Office, and his wife Lisa works for the Terry County District Attorney’s Office. He also has six grandkids and six great grands. Sadly, his wife Nancy died in 2016 after 41 years of marriage.
He plans to spend lots more time with family as he retires. “I want to spend some time with those grandkids. I really enjoy family time,” state Wayne.
Wayne and his girlfriend Chelle also hope to be able to do some traveling during his retirement years. “I have had a good life. I have loved every minute of it, but I am ready to relax and see some country. We plan to do a lot of traveling. I want to thank the citizens of Terry County and all the folks I have worked with for an amazing career. I loved it all.”
Sheriff Timothy Click stated, “Wayne has been great to work with. It will be hard to replace him. It is hard to find that much experience anywhere today. We have really appreciated Wayne and his work at the Sheriff’s Office.”
Wayne’s last day on the job will be March 30. There will be a retirement reception for Wayne at the TCLEC that afternoon.
Thanks Wayne, for all your years of service. Enjoy your retirement!