In less than a week, Morgan Robnett will celebrate 50 years of law enforcement service, and as he reflected on those years of service, his explanation was as colorful as his personality.
Standing more than six feet tall, his booming laugh was infectious and so was the passion conveyed in his eyes as he described the adventures in his career.
“I can’t remember any bad days,” Robnett said. “I know I’ve had some, but I’ve always been able to keep a light-hearted attitude. I’ve seen that one word happen in my career, and that’s ‘change.’ I’m glad that policing isn’t done like it was 50 years ago. There is a different way of thinking now, and honestly I wouldn’t want to go back.”
Robnett explained that departments work smarter now, and he feels like education and training contribute to that.
“I believe those are the foundation for that,” Robnett said. “I’ve had the pleasure to be able to earn three different college degrees, and then I’ve been able to share that gift, which is a hope that I believe time allowed me. I’ve been able to pass along what good judgment means, and that’s another secret to having a job you love.”
A chosen career
Robnett, 74, was honest when he talked about why his career move gravitated to law enforcement. His family lived near Venus, Texas, and his dad owned a farmer’s supply company in Waxahachie where the Ark Country Store is now located.
“My dad disowned me for a few years, because I wouldn’t go into the family business,” Robnett said. “I just wasn’t cut out for being a salesman like that. It has always been in me to be in law enforcement. It has just always been something I wanted to do.”
He earned a bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in 1977, a master’s degree in public administration in 1980 from Southern Methodist University and a Doctorate at Texas A&M University in 1989.
“From there I headed into the Air Force for six years, and when I got out I stayed in the Coast Guard Reserve for 32 years,” Robnett said. “I retired out of the Coast Guard Reserve as a Lt. Commander, and then went to work for the Dallas Police Department in July of 1962. I retired there 20 years later as a motorcycle police sergeant.”
During that time, Robnett and another sergeant started the Technical Motor Vehicle Accident Investigations Program.
“I really enjoyed this part of my career,” Robnett said. “It was fascinating and challenging at the same time.”
His next job came at the Dallas Sheriff’s Office in 1982, and he worked there until 1984. The following year he began teaching full time at Texas A&M University, where he was promoted to law enforcement and security training.
“From 1985 to 1990, I was also a deputy in Brazos County,” Robnett said. “I was never one for sitting still, so this fit into my plan nicely. When I retried from Texas A&M, I went full time with the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office. I left there in 1992, and came back home to Waxahachie.
“There is so much to be said for a law agency that has credibility, and I knew that’s what I was coming home to here in Ellis County,” Robnett said. “It’s all about cleaning house, and making sure that the credibility is foremost and that’s what’s here at the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office.”
In 1998, Robnett did have a 17-month stint as Chief of Police in Cockrell Hill, but after that he came back to Ellis County where he started working for the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office. While he was doing that, he also served as the interim Italy Police Chief for several months.
“At the end of the day on July 29, I will officially have my 50 years,” Robnett. “If you ask me what my biggest accomplishment were during that time, I’d have to say it was being the father to my two daughters, Sandy and Sheri, and grandfather to my two grandsons. I’ve also been involved with the Masons and Hella Shriners, which fills my heart every chance I get to volunteer. Yes, I’ve seen some tragedy in my life, but I’ve also been a part of a fun life.”
As he continued professing his love for the time dedicated to his career, his eyes filled with tears.
“It has been a three ring circus at times,” Robnett said. “I’ve been blessed with having some of the most wonderful supervisors and co-workers. I’ve also had the chance to work with some wonderful city employees like Italy’s Mayor Frank Jackson. He’s a 24-hour prince. What a fine gentleman.”
One of those he worked with at ECSO has been Dennis Brearley, chief deputy. Their relationship is one that transcends from the office to personal time-shared.
“He has been a friend during the good and bad times,” Brearley said. “He has achieved so much during his career. He has been an Eagle Scout, and he was the first Explorer Advisor for the Dallas Police Department in 1967. He has so many stories to share, and the best part is not one of us ever gets tired of hearing those.”
Ellis County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson made a similar observation.
“Morgan has the remarkable ability to keep everything in the proper perspective,” Wilson said. “Work is work. Work is not life. If Morgan has never told you a joke or a funny anecdote, then you have never met him. The secret to his success in law enforcement is that his folksy, country demeanor belies his sharp mind. As the saying goes, he’s crazy like a fox.”
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