The staff members at the Jackson County Jail rely on one of their co-workers so much that they recently decided to pool their resources and purchase him a car to make sure he can get to work three times a week.

It also helps that this man has spent the past 35 years teaching new jailers the ropes when it comes to dealing with inmates each day.

The car, a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, actually was purchased to celebrate Clyde Davidson’s years of service at the jail.

Over the years, Davidson has won the respect of many of his co-workers through his actions and deeds, jail Commander Charlie Murphy said.

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That respect often extends to some of the inmates, Sgt. David Ridlen said.

“He gets more respect than anyone, and we don’t let anybody disrespect him,” Ridlen said.

Ridlen said when he first went to work as a jailer 17 years ago, Davidson trained him.

“He was my sergeant,” he said. “He’s the man.”

Murphy said the respect Davidson has earned from his fellow workers also extends to many of the inmates who would jump in and help Davidson out if the need arose.

Davidson said he can remember an incident in which one inmate in a holding cell was giving him a hard time, and inmates in an adjacent cell asked to be let out so they could help him.

Murphy said Davidson is so well liked by all because of his attitude.

“They don’t make ‘em like Clyde anymore,” Murphy said. “When he hits the door, he’s looking for something to do. He wants to work. We miss him when he’s not here. He takes care of all the visitation, the preacher visits and a lot of other things.”

Visiting days for family and friends are Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons, and pastoral visits are Wednesday afternoons.

On the very few occasions when Davidson has not been there for visitation, his workers have not been very happy about it, Murphy said.

“Because one of them has to come out here and do it,” Murphy said in reference to the lobby where visitors are checked in and out. “They really appreciate what Clyde does.”

Davidson’s first day of the job was Jan. 1, 1982. That was at the old jail, which now houses Jackson Superior Court II and other county offices. He had been working at American Can Co. in Austin.

“They closed down, and I needed a job,” Davidson said. “My brother-in-law, Joe Shirley, worked here, so we talked about it. He suggested this.”

At that time, the average daily inmate count was about 18 to 20.

“When I started, we were jailers and dispatchers combined,” Davidson said.

Each shift had about four people, including a deputy.

By the time the old jail closed in the summer of 2000, the average inmate count was 70 to 80. It’s now more than 220.

There are now four to six jailers working at a time. Davidson has worked with most if not all of the jailers over the years, and they are people he likes.

That’s one reason he has stuck with the job. The other is because he wants to remain active for as long as his health allows.

Some of the inmates also are pretty good to get along with for the most part, he said.

“Occasionally, you get cussed out,” Davidson said.

He said one of his worst days on the job occurred when there was an escape attempt at the old jail.

“One of them got behind me and just pounded my head,” he said. “I had to get a few stitches and went to the hospital. There was blood all over the place.”

He said the addition of two nurses to the jail staff has made the job better because inmates have plenty of medical complaints.

Besides helping with the visitation and preacher visits, Davidson also books prisoners in and out, helps feed them and takes them to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and church services at the jail.

In 1994, Davidson said he and then-Sheriff Herschel Baughman, his wife, Gloria Baughman, and a fourth staffer went to school to learn about computers, which was one of the bigger changes that he has seen over the years.

That and growth in the use of illegal drugs by people.

“They get strung out on all different type of drugs,” he said. “Some of them come in and want to bite or something else. There’s several days of withdrawal. You have to keep them separated.”

He said a lot of inmates have mental issues and probably need to be somewhere besides jail.

“We just don’t have any facilities to take care of them,” Davidson said.

Davidson received the car a couple of weeks ago during a luncheon held in his honor.

“It’s one of the greatest things ever,” Davidson said.

Murphy said the idea of getting Davidson a car began a couple of months ago when Jail Officer Brent Terry came to him and mentioned the idea.

“Clyde was having some car trouble,” Murphy said.

Terry, who has been a jailer for about two years, said he had been trying to come up with a way to get something for Davidson’s 35th anniversary.

“You can get people candy and cards, but they don’t last long,” he said. “I wanted to get Clyde something that would last a little longer.”

Terry said he knew from talking with Davidson that he was having some car trouble because it had about 200,000 miles on it.

“And I knew there were other things wrong with the car that might have cost a lot to fix,” he said.

Terry said when he came up with the idea for raising the money to buy a car, he didn’t doubt he could do it.

“I just believed in the people that work here and that there are good people,” he said.

Murphy wasn’t quite as sure.

“I said, ‘Well, I don’t know how much interest you will get. I mean, we all love Clyde, but people just don’t go out and buy a car for someone else,’” Murphy said.

But Murphy said he knew Davidson was kind of proud of his 35 years of service, and he finally relented and told Terry if he thought he could raise the money, go ahead and try.

“Lo and behold, he had almost $2,000 the first day,” Murphy said. “I thought, ‘We had better go with it.’”

Terry said a $1,500 anonymous donation helped the cause a lot, and a local dealership helped out, too.

Davidson eventually wound up with a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt.

“We have people still calling wanting to give us money,” Murphy said. “It just shows how much people respect him and the kind of man he is.”

Terry said Davidson is kind of an icon at the jail, and he is always willing to help a person in need.

Davidson file

Name: Clyde Davidson

Age: 76

Hometown: Born in eastern Kentucky; moved to Crothersville when he was 2; also lived in Seymour

Occupation: Jail officer at the Jackson County Jail since Jan. 1, 1982

Family: Wife, Helen; son, Jesse Davidson; daughter, Tina Downing; two grandchildren; three great-grandchildren

Education: 1959 graduate of Crothersville High School

Past occupations: U.S. Air Force; American Can Co. in Austin; Cummins Engine Co.; civil service

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.