"Our selection for Reporter-Telegram 'Person of the Year' demonstrated to West Texans what it means to show courage during life's most difficult times," Shanna Sissom wrote in the opening paragraph of the tribute this year's year's recipient, Judge John Hyde of the 238th State District Court, of Midland County.
"Courage" is a word that gets tossed around way too much, IMHO, and applied to so many who are so undeserving. I fear, sometimes, that we are diluting the word, draining the last drop of its true meaning and reducing its impact for those occasions when its use is truly merited ... for people like John Hyde.
I first met Judge Hyde in the late 80s. He was already an established presence on the bench, and I was in the midst of job re-training. The oil bust of that era touched many lives, many professions, including my own. I had survived the first two rounds of layoffs at KMID-TV/Big 2 ... but the third one got me, and I was out of work. So, I went back to school, taking classes at Midland College, with a goal of becoming a paralegal. One of those classes offered 'intern' style education/experience, and I found myself at the Midland County Courthouse, student clerking (mostly) for Judge Hyde and (occasionally) for Judge Dean Rucker.
I wish everybody - especially the most outspoken and anonymous critics of our system - could have a chance to gain such experience, such insight and - ultimately - such appreciation for that system. I was a go-fer in every sense of the word, and I loved every minute of it. And through it all, I watched John Hyde at work, and listened very carefully to his instruction on what was transpiring around us.
To say I 'hold him in the highest regard' would be an understatement ... and my regard for him has only grown in the years since that internship. Eventually, the economy would recover, and I would return to media and journalism ... but this time I worked the courthouse beat so much better, and I had John Hyde (and Dean Rucker, and Pat Baskin, and Al Schorre, and so many others) to thank for that.
And I am hardly alone in my high regard for Judge Hyde ... just ask anyone else who has worked with him ... or anyone who has heard his presentations on the history of Midland County.
Of course, John Hyde has been in our thoughts and our prayers over the past year-and-a-half, during his battle with cancer. It is a battle being fought tenaciously, and with firm and loving support from his family, and his community, Sissom's article notes that doctors' prognoses notwithstanding, Judge Hyde has begun filling his docket for the year-to come ...
Well done, sir ... well done, indeed ...