The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

A look at the lawmen of Clovis' past


March 23, 2016


[email protected]

More than 30 men — no women — have held the title of Clovis police chief since the city was born in 1907.

Doug Ford, 50, became the latest earlier this month when he was named to succeed retiring chief Steve Sanders.

A few facts, and some stories, about the chiefs through the years:

A modern-day standard

• Only one Clovis chief has held the job more than 10 years.

Nelson Worley was 27 when he accepted the job as Clovis’ top cop in 1945. He lasted just three years that time, but returned in 1973 and held the position until retiring from law enforcement in 1983.

Worley also served five terms as Curry County sheriff in between his jobs with Clovis police.

The Clovis police station today is named in Worley’s honor: Nelson Worley Law Enforcement Complex.

Worley died in 2004. He was 86.

Not for long

• Between 1931 and 1964, the Clovis police chief held the job an average of just 1.6 years. Since Worley took over in 1973, the average tenure for a Clovis chief has been six years.

Troubled times

• At least 12 different men held the job between 1941 and 1951, with only Worley lasting more than three years.

Four men held the police chief title in 1945, probably the most tumultuous year in the department’s history.

About mid-January 1945, 11 officers — nearly the entire force, according to the Clovis News-Journal — resigned in protest of the anticipated removal of Chief Leonard Pinnix.

Capt. Worley was one of the 11 who quit.

City officials announced the next day that J.W. Manning would be the new police chief.

Before year’s end, city commissioners had ousted Manning and his successor, Roy Ansley.

Worley was appointed chief on Nov. 22, 1945.

Allegations of prisoner abuse and a stolen car plagued the brief administrations of Manning and Ansley.

Pinnix, who came to Clovis from Albuquerque, had been on the job barely a year, making major organizational changes, according to newspaper reports.

The early years

• The late historian Don McAlavy said Clovis’ earliest law officers were called marshals before they were police chiefs.

The city’s first police officer is not clear, but pioneer dentist Dr. I. D. Johnson remembered a few from an essay he wrote about his boyhood.

Johnson, who arrived in Clovis in 1910, said the first law officer he remembered was Frank Ivy.

“(He) rode a gray horse up and down Main,” Johnson wrote. “He wore a big high-crowned hat and a handle-bar mustache with his Chihuahua spurs that jingled. He looked like a lawman.”

Dick Moye was an early day sheriff described by Johnson as “slender in build and a quiet appearance.” Moye also “hated gamblers,” according to Johnson.

Doug Hammond also made an impression on a young Johnson, or at least Mrs. Hammond attracted his attention.

“(Hammond) drove a one-horse buggy and his beautiful red-haired wife rode with him,” according to Johnson.

Legendary big man

• Perhaps Clovis’ most legendary police chief was Finis Sadler.

A 1914 article in The Clovis News reported Sadler was 6-feet, 9-inches tall and 230 pounds “with no fat.”

According to I. D. Johnson, “He made his arrests without help.”

But news reports from the summer of 1914 showed Sadler was not invincible.

He was seriously injured when struck by “a loaded whip,” after an encounter with a local barber.

News accounts showed Sadler had “removed” Barber Harvey Boothe from a Clovis street on suspicion of drunkenness. Boothe is alleged to have attacked Sadler the next day.

The Roswell Daily Record reported Sadler was expected to be “confined to his bed for some time” with multiple injuries that included a broken arm.

Boothe suffered “painful bruises” and was in custody following the fight.

Sadler did not return to his duties until September of 1914, news accounts show.


• In 1974, Police Chief Worley issued certificates to 13 officers who completed a training program.

“When you are dealing with the public,” Worley told them, “they demand courtesy and respect.

“Anyone can stop a fight or direct traffic or make an arrest, but that’s only 10 percent of the job. The other 90 percent is how you go about doing the job.”

Chiefs through the years

Here is a list of Clovis police chiefs through 1929, compiled from newspaper archives:

2016: Doug Ford

2008-2015: Steve Sanders

2006-2008: Dan Blair

2001-2006: Bill Carey

1999-2001: Raymond Mondragon

1991-1999: Harry Boden

1983-1991: Caleb Chandler

1973-1983: Nelson Worley

1968-1973: Ken Kingsbury

1964-1968: Lawrence Rhodes

1962-1964: Lloyd Niece

1959-1962: Ollie Damron

1958-1959: Pat Graef

1957-1958: Bob Whitley

1956-1957: Charlie Witherspoon

1953-1956: Ollie Damron

1951-1953: John Droke

1951: Jeff Guthrie

1950: Dan Webster

1949-1950: George Ray

1948: T.E. Sebastian

1945-1948: Nelson Worley

1945: Roy Ansley

1945: J.W. Manning

1944-1945: Leonard Pinnix

1943-1944: Joe Roach

1941-1943: Frank Lane

1941-1941: Bob Ledbetter

1932-1940: R.M. Witherspoon

1932: John Manning

1931-1932: Seph Graham

1929-1930: E.B. Eastham


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2020