It has been 10 years since John Hodges served as the police chief for the town of Hope Mills. But he remained a familiar figure to the people of the small town after his retirement, and they still held him in high regard because of the respect he showed for its citizens.
Hodges, 84, passed away just over a week ago.
Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner was a member of the town’s board of commissioners during Hodges’ final years as police chief.
“If I’m not mistaken, he was at our last board meeting,’’ Warner said. “He would come to board meetings, and you’d always see him at local restaurants.’’
He had a fun side beyond his role as police chief. “The most unusual thing was when I found out he loved to dance,’’ Warner said. “He traveled all over North Carolina and competed in Fayetteville’s Dancing With the Stars.’’
While she described Hodges as softspoken, Warner said his interest in the town was genuine. “You always knew he was concerned,’’ she said.
He was also supportive of his son Chuck Hodges, who currently serves as the town’s fire chief.
“He grew up in a town kind of like Hope Mills,’’ Chuck said of his father. “He loved Hope Mills. He loved the people. He loved that hometown feeling.’’ Chuck said it was rare for his father to go anywhere in Cumberland County without running into someone who knew him.
The elder Hodges was an avid sports fan, having played sports in high school and some semipro baseball. He officiated local high school sports as well.
Neil Buie, regional supervisor of football officials for the Southeastern Athletic Officials Association, said John had a calm, unexcitable demeanor as a football official and that he worked well with coaches.
“He just brought respect to the football field from his private vocation," Buie said. “John was a good guy. He really enjoyed it.
Above all, Chuck said his father instilled in his family a sense of the importance of public service. John's son Tim Hodges is a sergeant with the Cumberland County sheriff’s department. His daughter-in-law, Kara Hodges, is a senior assistant district attorney for Cumberland County.
“Our whole family has been in some form of public service, giving back to the community, helping to protect the community,’’ Chuck said.
Although John's role as police chief required him to enforce the law, Chuck said, his father won the respect of many people he interacted with who were on the wrong side of the law.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Your dad busted me, but he treated me like an individual,’" Chuck said. “I think he was honorable.
“You might not get the answer you wanted from him, but he would listen to your side. I just think he treated people fairly.’’
Photo: John Hodges