Former commissioner Hall remembered

·3 min read

Jun. 23—Retired Henderson County Commissioner Joe B. Hall, who was laid to rest Tuesday, left a lasting impression of a man who stood tall and was unwavering in his convictions.

Hall served Precinct 1 from 2001 to 2013, winning election three times. Current County Judge Wade McKinney sat next to Hall at Commissioners Court meetings for all three of those terms and formed a close working relationship with his fellow member.

"He was honest and true and a man of conviction," McKinney said. "But above all, he was my friend."

Despite having run his own mowing business, managing a ranch and working as a mechanic, there was still a lot to learn when he first took the reins in Precinct 1. He credited McKinney with helping him as he became accustomed to the job.

Four county judges held office during Hall's stay: Tommy Smith, Aubrey Jones, David Holstein and Richard Sanders. Hall said he learned to respect each one for their abilities and unique skills they brought to the job. He said he also felt the same way about the commissioners he's worked alongside during his terms.

"He had a servant's heart," McKinney said. "I really mean it when I say he was my refuge a bunch of times."

During his final term, Hall gained some notoriety outside Henderson County when the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation tried to force local officials to remove the nativity scene from the lawn of the county courthouse.

County Judge Richard Sanders and the commissioners court stood against the demands for removal.

In a televised interview, Hall said, "I'm an old country boy, you come to my house looking for a fight, you're going to get one. That's from the bottom of my heart.

"I ain't gonna back down — I haven't and I won't," he added.

Rather than seek re-election in 2012, Hall decided to move on to the next chapter of his life.

"One reason I didn't run in this past election is because I believed God had a different direction for me," he said. "The same as he called me to run for commissioner, I believe he called me to pastor a church."

After committing his life to God's service, Hall and his wife Gudi became members at Cross Roads where they were church custodians for 27 years.

Eventually, Hall found he was getting opportunities to fill the pulpit at several area churches on occasion. Then came the call to pastor Willow Springs. His first wedding ceremony as pastor was to unite McKinney and his wife Ashley.

During his career, Hall was in the middle of a couple hotly debated issues in his years on the court and was never shy about telling you where he stood.

"I've always been in the middle of something controversial," he said. "I've never been the kind to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes you've got to stand up for what you believe in."

One area where Hall was unbending is in his opposition to liquor sales.

When the Commissioners Court was presented a petition to set a local option election, he would invariably vote no, even though the court's role is just to agree that the signatures are valid and set the election date.

"I have a personal conviction against alcohol," Hall said. "God led me away from it. I just can't vote for it."