• No one brings meaning to the phrase “Don’t mess with Texas” more than our lawmen. Every once in awhile, when I have the chance to escape from the Devil City, I get together with what I call the “Poe-leece”. The Poe-leece are a group of my friends in the Texas law enforcement community. I have been friends with most of them since my days on the bench. When we all get together we like to exchange “war stories”. The most seasoned veteran of them all is a man named Tom Morgan.
  • Tom Morgan is the oldest active lawman in Texas. This year Tom will turn 93 years young. I first met Tom 25 years ago at the North Harris County Criminal Justice Association breakfast meeting in Humble. This sprightly veteran still has the same passion for our country and our military that he did the day he enlisted. Tom served three tours of duty, but that is not the only remarkable part of his career.
  • Tom was born on September 20, 1920 in Bossier City, Louisiana, about twenty miles from the Texas border. He was a child of the Great Depression and grew up very poor. His town was very patriotic, especially since it was home to Barksdale Air Force Base.
  • When World War II began, Tom was just 21 years old. He answered his country’s call of duty to serve and joined the U.S. Marines. During this time, the United States’ first major offensive was launched against Japan in the Guadalcanal. Japan was trying to solidify its stronghold on the Island of Guadalcanal, because of its closeness to Australia. The Japanese had built an airfield and had about 8,500 men on the island. Tom’s first tour was in Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, in August 1942. Sergeant Tom Morgan and the Marine Corps-- members of the Greatest Generation--secured the airfield and killed half the Japanese force. But the fierce fighting took three months. Conditions were harsh for our warriors- thick jungle, heavy rainfall, swamps, mud , mountainous terrain and a determined enemy. The Japanese sent in reinforcements during the “Tokyo Express”; 4,000 of the enemy reached land. However, by February 1943, the U.S. marines took control of the island. Tom’s unit played a pivotal part in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Over 1,500 American warriors were killed in action and 4,000 injured; thousands contracted malaria—including Sergeant Tom Morgan. Tom later recalled that malaria had put him near death.
  • He rested as much as he could and took the little yellow pill, Atabrine, which doctors prescribed. In the summer of 1944, Tom was sent to fight in the Battle of Saipan. Marines go where others fear to tread, and they fight for all American freedoms. They landed on the beaches of Saipan with a goal of gaining a crucial air base from which they could launch B-29 bombers. The Battle of Saipan was fierce and bloody; the enemy put up barbed wire along beaches and dug trenches to trap and ambush the marines. 
  • Our boys laid claim to the beachheads inch by bloody inch. Nearly 30,000 Japanese soldiers died trying to defend the island and 3,426 Americans were killed with 13,000 wounded. On July 8, 1944, the United States flag was raised in victory over Saipan, and Tom survived his second major battle.
  • Less than a year later, Tom was sent to fight in the Battle of Okinawa, referred to as Operation Iceberg. This battle was the first time that US troops fought on Japanese soil and it would be the bloodiest. Tom and the Marines were on board a transport ship Easter, Sunday morning, 1945, eating breakfast in the mess hall when an enemy plane hit the ship. Water began filling up the mess hall and Tom though he was going to meet his maker. However,  the man above had different plans for Tom. The hatch flew open and he was able to escape!  The marines went on to land in Okinawa. The battle lasted 82 days and was referred to as “typhoon of steel”. American casualties were the highest experienced in any campaign against the Japanese. Battle casualties for the Japanese were 49,151, of which 12,520 were killed or missing and 36,631 wounded. Marine losses, including those of the Tactical Air Force, were 2,938 Killed and missing and 13,708 wounded. On June 22, 1945, the United States flag was raised in victory over Okinawa and Tom survived his third battle.
  • Not many Americans fought in all three battles of Guadalcanal, Saipan and Okinawa. Tom remained in the Marines until 1946 and continued his service in the Reserves; he even served three months in the Korean War!
  • After the war, Tom enrolled at the University of Louisiana to pursue his degree in mechanical engineering. During that same year, he decided to pay a visit to an old friend in Houston, Texas. It was there he met a Texas beauty; her friends called her Pat. Tom told me he fell in love with Pat at first sight. He immediately decided to move to Texas, transferred the University of Houston, and married Pat the following year.
  • He finished college, became a pipeline engineer and designer and began a family. He and his wife, Pat, raised three children in their home in Pasadena, Texas. He retired from Gulf Interstate Engineering in 1982, at the age of 62.
  • Now this is where I would normally say. “And that’s just the way it is.” But, Tom’s story is not over. Ten years after retirement, Tom decided to join the Harris county Sheriff’s Office Reserve Command. At first, Pat was not too happy. He told Pat he was tired of following her around the grocery store and that he needed to be busy. So at the age of 72, he graduated from the Harris County Sheriff Office Academy and became the oldest rookie.
  • Today, Lieutenant Tom Morgan is assigned to the HCSO Marine Division where he patrols the waters of Lake Houston, San Jacinto River and the Ship Channel. Once a Marine, always a Marine. As a reserve deputy he works at least 500 hours a year. He conducts boat safety inspections and boat stops to enforce all aspects of boating law.
  • For 21 years, he has put on the badge and a gun to protect and serve the people of Harris County that he loves. He patrols the Ship Channel, where he works closely with Homeland Security at the Pot of Houston.
  • Retire? Not Tom. Again, let me remind you. Tom is 93 years old! Tom is the oldest lawman in Texas.
  • In 2008, Tom’s Texas beauty, Pat, passed away. Tom and Pat were married for 61 years. It’s been five years since her passing; Tom told me not a day goes by that he doesn’t miss his Pat. He says it’s good for him to stay busy: working, volunteering at his church, spending time with his three children who all live in the Houston area and enjoying his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
  • Ronald Reagan best summed it up when he said, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.” And Tom definitely does not have that problem.
  • Soon, Sherriff Adrian Garcia of Harris County Texas will recognize Lieutenant Tom Morgan with the Lifetime Achievement Award. A fitting honor for a remarkable man. Simper Fi! Oooh Rah! Marine and Texas Lawman--Tom Morgan.
  • And that’s just the way it is.