Last week, I went on Facebook (not something I do a lot) and learned a friend of mine passed away.
It’s doubtful anyone in the Alvin or Manvel areas know Bryan Walls, but the entire time I was in Graham, Texas, as the editor of The Graham Leader, Bryan was the sheriff. As the editor, I covered the sheriff’s department so I dealt with Bryan several times a week.
My first or second day in Graham, I called Bryan to introduce myself. At the time, his office was literally across the street in what soon became the “old” county jail. After I introduced myself on the phone, Bryan invited me over and told me I could come to his office door outside the building rather than go through security at the front.
So I did. And we talked about 20 minutes about stuff related to work and a lot that had nothing to do with work.
Over the next year, I stopped by Bryan’s office frequently and mostly unannounced. If he was in, he never hesitated to let me in. And even better for a reporter, he never refused to answer a question.
When the new jail opened, it included a new office across town, so I had to go out of my way to see Bryan. But a couple of time a week I was there, usually asking about a story before talking about life.
The best part about working with Bryan is he went out of his way to work with the local media. I could call him on his cell anytime, and did so frequently. He also allowed his deputies to speak openly with me, and they did so often. It was a good time to be a reporter in Young County.
I could tell a hundred stories about Bryan Walls, but I’ll limit it to a few.
One day I was sitting in the office when I received a call from someone who told me there had been a shooting. I did what I always did in those cases, I called Bryan on his cell. When he answered, I asked where he was and his answer was to the point — “At the murder scene.”
I went out there and Bryan gave me unfettered access. He knew I would stay out of the way when necessary, so he kinda gave me free reign. I took whatever pictures I wanted, talked to any deputies on the scene and asked Bryan anything I wanted to. And I got good stories because of it.
In another fire, we had a year where there was a massive wildfire in the region. Over two counties, it burned tens of thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes.
Early on in the blaze, I was out with the sheriff and several deputies as they were blocking traffic from entering the “danger” zone. We were pretty close to the fire which was massive and moving.
All of a sudden, the fire jumped the road literally about 15 feet in front of us. Bryan looked at me and said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m out of here.” I had to run back to my car and by the time I got in, the sheriff and his deputies had already driven by.
I loved working with Bryan Walls. No law enforcement agency before or since has given such access and such trust. I guess because of that, Bryan became my friend. We talked about our children, our churches, a lot more than work.
Shortly after I left Graham, Bryan got sick and retired as sheriff. Because of diabetes, he eventually got to the point where he needed a transplant to have a chance at a decent life. After years of waiting, Bryan got the call a couple of weeks ago that he was getting that transplant. He had the surgery designed to improve his life, but his body didn’t take it well. In the end, it cost him his life.
Bryan was not a perfect man — far from it — but he was a good man, a good cop and good friend. And I will miss him.