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After 19 Years,
Settles Into A New
Way Of Life
BY ERIC CARLSON
r ? ihey don't make TV shows about men like Liston
X? Hawes and the job he did for most of his 19 years
at the Brunswick County Sheriff's Department.
He didn't Hash his gun around or make undercover
drug buys or fly up the road with his siren wailing and
his blue light flashing. Still. Hawes had one of the most
psychologically demanding and potentially dangerous
jobs in law enforcement.
Imagine knocking on a door and telling a mother that
you've come to take her child away.
Think about ordering someone to pack his belong
ings. to leave his home and to stay away.
Picture yourself calling a tow truck to haul away a car
owned by a man who looks you right in the eye and says
he'll shoot you before letting it go.
Hawes had to handle all of those sticky situations and
many more as the sheriff's top civil officer. But while
everyone thinks they know about criminal law enforce
ment, they tend to think of Hawes' office as the lighter
side of police work.
Sitting around his kitchen table drinking coffee last
week. Hawes was enjoying his first full day as a "re
tired'' deputy lieutenant. As he toid stories about his
long career, you could see he didn't much care about be
ing underestimated. It's something he's put up with all
A native of Columbus County, Hawes said he "was
born to a wonderful woman in this great country of ours
in 1936." It wasn't long after his birth that the family re
alized Liston had a problem. But nobody could figuie
out what it was.
As a young boy. Hawes always seemed to have trou
ble getting around. It wasn't until age six that he began
to walk, and then only with great difficulty.
"F.verv two or three steps I would fall down." he re
membered. "1 couldn't stay upright to open a door. I
would have to wait for someone else to go through it
and ioilow ilicirt. When I started school, they wcrcn !
equipped to deal with that type person. So they sent me
Things weren't much better the next year, but he start
ed school anyway. Tb<* dix-tors couldn't tell him what
was wrong. But since there wasn't much he could do
about his condition, he just had to cope with it.
"I learned to get around," he said. "I could plow a
mule. I could farm. But 1 always had to be careful with
evciy step I took. If my kr.ee didn't lock jus! right. I'd
go down like I was shot with a gun."
When he was 2! and "trying to court a woman,"
Hawes said he got into a wrestling match with a rival
boyfriend and ended up with a broken arm. When it
STAFF PHOTO BY ERlC CARLSON
KIAAXING on the porch of their home in Ash, Liston and Huby Hawcs are getting used to a new life, now that he ha\ retired after 19 years with the
Brunswick County Sheriff's Department.
didn't seem to heal correctly, he went to a bone special
ist in Charlotte. The doctor noticed Hawes limping
down the hallway and asked him what was wrong.
"! said. 'I don't know.' and he gave me a physical.
Then he sal me down and told me that I had had polio
all my life," Hawes said. "That was his specialty, He
took me to a floor of the hospital where they had room
aiiei loom wi (Mticnts laying in beds or sitting in wheel
chairs with polio."
"This is your condition," the doctor told him. "You
were never supposed to walk. And by the time you're
40. you will be an invalid."
Now 57 years old. Hawes has never let that diagnosis
slow him down. He's held a number of responsible posi
tions, been happily married to his wife Ruby for 32
years and raised a family of "three fine children." But it
hasn't been easy.
"I've never had a problem working, except having to
prove myself to employers," he said. "When I applied
for a job, it wasn't enough to be better qualified than the
other applicants. I'd have to be a lot better. I've always
had to work tsvice as hard to be treated as equal."
Siiciiii Herman Sitong offered Hawes a job at the
sheriff's department in April 1975, while he was work
ing as a purchasing agent for the company that built the
Brunswick Nuclear Plant. When construction on the
plant began to wind down, Hawes was laid off one
morning and started a new joh that night as a jaiier in
After proving himself as a guard and later as a dis
patcher. Hawes was put in charge of the department's
civil division, a position he has held ever since. At first
he handled the job by himself, delivering subpoenas,
foreclosure notices, divorce decrees, child custody and
support papers, lock-up orders and other civil court ac
tions throughout the county. By the time he retired.
Hawes was superv ising a staff of tour officers and a sec
retary in an office that processed nearly 10,000 civil in
struments a year.
Civil officers don't arrest criminals. Hut because they
enforce child custody rulings, domestic violence orders
and court-ordered marital separations, they spend much
of their time handling the most dreaded and dangerous
calls in law ??nforcement?the domestic dispute.
Hawes remembered one case where a battered wife got
a court order to have her husband removed from the
home. The man complied peacefully and left. Then a few
days later, she called police to say that he was back in the
house and refused to leave. She also said he had gun.
Hawes and several criminal officers went in through a
back door and began searching from room to room.
They eventually found a locked door upstairs and broke
in to find the man passed out on the lied. One officer
jumped the man while another grabbed the loaded shot
gun that was lying just inches from his hand.
Another time Hawes went to a home in Leland owned
by a woman who had refused to make her payments on a
used car. The dealer obtained a court order to have it
picked up. Hawes knew the woman and expected trou
ble. so he arranged for back-up in the form of a verv
When they got to the house, the woman politely invit
ed him inside. She said her husband was out of tow n and
she didn't have the money to pay him. It was the same
story Hawes had heard on two previous visits. This time
he had to get the money or the car.
"She was just as sweet as she could be until I broke
the bad news," Hawes said. "Then she told me. 'It you
call that wrecker, you might as well call the rescue
squad, because I'm going to kill you. "
Back outside. Hawes called for the wrecker and anoth
er deputy. The woman sent her son inside to get a gun.
"I told her if that hoy comes out with a gun. I'm going
to have to shoot him." Hawes said. "All of a sudden (her
husband) came from behind the house with a wad of
money and asked how much she owed. He started peel
ing off SKID bills like a crooked politician on election
Hawes said he truly enjoyed his years with the sher
iff's department, but he admits that it takes a certain type
of person to be happy in law enforcement.
"You've got to have a code of ethics and live by it,"
he said. "It's not the badge or the gun or the fact that you
get to drive fast and run your siren. Your first duty is to
help, not to take. Your first duty is to the people you
And there's one other thing you need to keep yourself
on a level track in such a demanding job. Hawes said: A
companion like his wife Ruby.
"One of the most important things in being a gixul
law enforcement officer is your mate," he said.
"Whether you're a man or a woman, your mate has to be
a \ery special breed. If you've got problems at home,
you're going to carry them to work. That was never a
problem for me."
Although he's not sure how he'll spenil his retirement
("I've never done this before!" he said). Hawes has al
ready lined up a part-time job. And the two of them are
planning a trip he has always dreamed ol?north to
Maine and Nova Scotia and across Canada to Alaska.
For now they're just getting used to having each other
"In a couple of years, me and my little wife are going
to be the most beat-uppest people you have ever
seen...or the lovingest." he said with glance toward
Her silent reply leaves little doubt about which way
things will go.
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