Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Hard worker became county sheriff

Ernest Garcia always said “I attended the school of hard knocks!”

Garcia had only two years of schooling. Born on his grandfather’s ranch at Anton Chico in 1910, Ernest knew nothing but work from daylight to dark.

He was one of five bothers with seven sisters. When he thought he had learned all he needed to know about horses and ranching he hopped a freight train and rode the rails to Texas, to Colorado, and ended up in Wyoming where he started work on a ranch. There he worked with sheep and tried his hand at raising sugar beets and fell in love with the farmer’s daughter.

Her name was Flora Chavez and they were soon married.

As man and wife they settled down near a town called Wheatland, Wyo., which is about the size of Portales.

Besides raising sugar beets, they raised three boys: Daniel, Rudy, and Charlie. Rudy said his dad’s grandfather sold the ranch at Anton Chico and the whole family moved to Clovis, except for Ernest Garcia and his family. Rudy’s father went to work on a railroad section gang near Laramie, Wyo.

When Rudy was 6 in 1950, his family moved to Clovis. He said his father was tired of all that cold weather in Wyoming.

In Clovis, Ernest Garcia started working for the Santa Fe Railroad. But with only six months on and six months of the year laid off, he quit and found work at the Texico Port of Entry.

He also worked at the polls during elections, and became well acquainted with most of the Hispanics in Clovis and Curry County.

Two of his brothers became popular running a grocery store at 900 W. Grand as did another brother who had a service station at Grand and Hull.

Ernest was a Democrat. In 1956, Democrat Briscoe West ran for sheriff in Curry County. West asked Ernest to help him get out the Hispanic vote and promised him a job if he won.

West won and made Ernest Garcia the office deputy at the courthouse, where Garcia handled the calls coming in and out, booking law-breakers and handling many other jobs with utmost confidence.

In two years, West was out of office and Nelson Worley was elected sheriff. Worley made Garcia his chief deputy.

Garcia served as chief deputy until he decided to run for sheriff in 1964. Six other candidates entered the race against him: Ralph Duty, Lee Williams, Olan Bailey, Pat Graef, E. C. Clifton and L. B. Redwine.

On election day, May 6, 1964, Ernest Garcia’s overwhelming win surprised many. One election official said “there were six candidates fighting among themselves and Ernest just walked in and took the prize away from them!”

Ernest was chairman of the Democrat Party for a number of years, helping the late Gloria White, a powerful politician in her own right, and another Democrat, Bert Cabiness, who worked for many years as clerk at City Hall.

In addition to his job as sheriff, Garcia operated a farm and raised alfalfa and never took a vacation while in office as sheriff.

“My dad retired in 1972,” Rudy Garcia said. “He bought a little farm at Fort Sumner and ran it for eight years.”

Ernest Garcia died in 1986 and was buried in Wyoming, despite the cold ground. His wife, Flora, died just before Christmas in 2003. Her ashes will soon be taken to Wyoming and buried next to her husband.

Rudy Garcia provided the details on his parents.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]