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Hero Down: Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Hardin Dies After 76 Years On The Job

Cleburne, TX – Johnson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) Deputy Luther Holland “Bill” Hardin, the oldest and longest-serving law enforcement officer in the world, died on Feb. 17 at the age of 99.

Deputy Hardin devoted 76 years of his life to his law enforcement career.

The JCSO confirmed the legendary deputy’s death in a press release later that morning.

“It is with great sadness we announce the loss of a great friend, brother, and lawman,” the sheriff’s office said. “Deputy Bill Hardin passed away today surrounded by friends and love ones. He was 99 years old.”

Johnson County Sheriff Adam King told the Cleburne Times-Review that Deputy Hardin was “a legend of a man.”

“Deputy Bill Hardin was just two weeks from his 100th birthday. Even though he didn’t reach his birthday, he holds a couple of records that will probably never be broken,” Sheriff King said. “May he rest in peace in the arms of the Lord.”

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 said he could 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, where he served another 28 years until his death.

“Right after I took over as sheriff, I gave Bill the office right across from mine,” Sheriff King told the Cleburne Times-Review. “I wanted him close to me because a man with that much experience knows a lot of things and I needed and wanted to pull from his extensive knowledge and experience and he was just such a huge asset to us in that way.”

Deputy Hardin was always willing to visit with and offer guidance to his colleagues.

“He once told me that what made him love this job so much was that he always had something to learn,” JCSO Deputy Aaron Pitts told the Cleburne Times-Review. “During the years I spent working with him, he imparted me with knowledge I couldn’t have gained from anybody else. I was truly an honor to call him my friend.”

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.

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.”

Deputy Hardin said in 2020 that he was toying with the idea of possibly retiring.

“I’m going to keep doing this until the sheriff runs me out,” he told KTVT at the time. “If I can make it to 75 [years on the job], I may go ahead and retire.”

He surpassed that goal and kept right on serving.

In addition to his career in law enforcement, Deputy Hardin was also a World War II veteran, according to his obituary.

“Bill was a true living legend. The oldest and longest running Peace Officer in the world. But more than that he was our brother and our friend,” the JCSO said in the press release after his death. “Bill never failed to share his knowledge with our new deputies and was always ready with a handshake and a smile.”

“His presence within the walls of this agency will be truly missed. But his legacy will never be forgotten,” the sheriff’s office added. “Rest easy Bill. We will take the watch from here.”

Deputy Hardin leaves behind his wife, Wanda, and his daughter, Jennifer, according to his obituary.

He is also survived by his brother, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren.

Deputy Hardin will be laid to rest on Feb. 25.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Luther Holland “Bill” Hardin, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin


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