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story.lead_photo.caption James Rhodes

He served under six different Cole County sheriffs, and he was working for nothing during most of that time.

James Rhodes retired earlier this month from the department after working there for 50 years, mostly as a sheriff's reserve deputy.

"My personal goal was to make it to 50 years of service, and I got it," he said.

Besides his time working for the sheriff's department and the state of Missouri, Rhodes has, and continues, to keep an active personal life.

Rhodes and his wife, Linda, have six children, 13 grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.

Rhodes has been involved in martial arts since 1964. In August 2015, he was inducted into the U.S.A. Martial Arts Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas.

He continues do snake wrangling in Oklahoma near the Texas border and loves to swim with sharks. Along with all this, Rhodes has also acted in several local theater productions.

Most of his time with the sheriff's department has been spent transporting prisoners back and forth from various jails and prisons around the state. Rhodes said he probably went to 65 of the 114 counties in the state picking up prisoners.

"When I came on in 1971, under Sheriff Wyman Baysinger, there were 50 of us in the reserve and only four or five full-time deputies," he said. "The reserves did the patrolling of the county at night. It was the good old days. We used our own cars, slapped magnetic sheriff's stars on the sides, and we had a walkie-talkie, and that's all we had to go patrol the county."

Rhodes actually retired in June 2000 after working 40 years for the state at the Highway Patrol and Division of Employment Security. After he retired from his paying jobs, Rhodes said he did even more work for the sheriff's department as a reserve, sometimes putting in as much 120-140 hours a month on duty.

"In 2010, as (now Sheriff John Wheeler) was cleaning his desk out to move to the current jail (which opened in 2011), he said to me,' You're in here all the time — would you like to work for us?'" he said. "I told him, 'You know what John, it'd be nice to get paid after doing all these years for free.' So they hired me as a part-time deputy for transports."

One of the reasons Rhodes got on with the reserve deputy program was what happened to his family when they were building their first home in 1970 on Shamrock Road.

"All the lumber for the house was brought in, and we started work on it," he said. "I went into work at the Highway Patrol one night, and when I came back the next day, the whole load of lumber that had been left was stolen."

Rhodes said when he started in the reserves, he didn't have any fear when he went out on patrol.

"People in Cole County respected the law, but in the 1980s, things changed," Rhodes said.

It wasn't unusual for Rhodes to get calls while he was out doing prisoner transports to go to additional counties for other prisoners. His longest trips lasted 12-13 hours.

"You know, I found I wasn't the oldest one doing this," he said. "I ran into a guy who was 83 and still doing jail transports."

"People find it hard to believe that I've been doing all these things while I'm retired," Rhodes added. "I'm 75, and I'm ready to call it quits with the sheriff's department although I know I'm going to miss it."

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