Growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, Buddy Hawkins knew he admired people who stood up for others from a young age. He could not bear to see anyone being picked on or taken advantage of, but Buddy was not physically able to defend others. “I was a scrawny kid who didn’t play sports and I was dealing with a hereditary neurological issue that was not yet recognized by the field of medicine,” Buddy says. “I always joke that I was too dumb to know I was disabled.”
In 1959, Buddy graduated from high school, and his father took a job in Texarkana as a part owner and manager of McLarty Ford. Buddy’s father and his future father-in-law were storytellers and were known for their recollections of historical tales. Buddy also likes to discuss local stories. “I often begin a conversation with ‘tell me a funny story,” Buddy says. “I believe my inability to take myself seriously has served me well.”
While in college, Buddy’s desire to help others and his admiration for first responders, policemen, and the military caused Buddy to join the ROTC program, which was designed to lead to an officer’s commission on graduation from college. However, officer candidates still had to pass physical exams at Fort Sill to be approved for a commission. Buddy says that he still did not realize he had a hereditary birth defect that would have precluded him from being commissioned, but he wanted to be in the Army. “The morning of my physical, I accidentally kicked my toenail off! I gave that as the reason I could not squat and get up, and the testing medic approved me!” Buddy says. “None of my jobs required physical strength and agility, and I went on to serve two years active and 28 years reserve in the Army.”
While in college, Buddy met Idalee Raffaelli, who attended Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where Buddy’s family were members. They were both in law school; he attended the University of Arkansas, and she attended the University of Texas. They soon married and both graduated from the University of Arkansas law school in 1966. Buddy has four children: Leasa, Johnette, Mark, and Ginny.
Buddy began his Army duty in September 1966 and was assigned to the Army Logistics Management Center (USALMC) at Fort Lee, Virginia, to teach legal and logistics subjects, mainly in procurement. Buddy sponsored foreign students who attended the school. “USALMC’s American students represented all of our military branches, and the foreign students came from our allies’ military services to learn logistics. I found that sponsoring foreign students was an enlightening experience,” Buddy says. “Most of the procurement officers at RRAD attended USALMC courses.”
After Buddy’s two-year active-duty tour, his family returned to Texarkana and joined Idalee’s father’s law firm, Raffaelli & Lee. Although the Vietnam war was at its peak, Buddy was never sent to Vietnam. “I can’t say I’m happy because I would have liked to have the experience of serving where everyone else was going,” Buddy says. “What I did could never hold a candle to the men who went and served over there, but I am glad I could contribute.”
After his active-duty tour, Buddy joined an Army Reserve unit teaching military courses on weekends and summers. His first assignment was with the Army National Guard Medical unit at Spring Lake Park. Luckily the members were well-trained, and most had medical-related civilian jobs. Other teaching assignments included redeye missiles, Soviet army and government, mortars, and the career course for company grade officers.
Then, Buddy was asked by a local doctor and Brigadier General J Royston Brown to serve as Staff Judge Advocate for the 807th Medical Brigade, a Corps-level unit of 6500 doctors and medical support personnel with units in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The unit was tasked to provide medical services in combat theaters through hospitals, helicopter ambulances, dental units, and medical depots, such as those in Texarkana. “That job lasted eight plus years, although it was typically a three-year slot,” Buddy says.
In addition, Buddy completed the career course for company grade officers and the Command & General Staff College for field grade officers.
Although few JAG positions were available, he was eventually assigned to command a small JAG unit in Oklahoma City, followed by command of a 100-member JAG unit, the second Military Law Center in New Orleans. The small unit received the fifth Army Training Medal for various activities. “As one of many small JAG units, we were largely ignored and didn’t get great assignments, but I learned that our unit could make things happen and get more enjoyable duties like working for the Corps JAG at Fort Lewis and providing legal assistance for the SJA of the 25th Inf Division in Hawaii,” Buddy says.
Buddy served with the Legislative Reference Service of the Army General Counsel for several summers and a short call-up for Desert Shield to finish 28 years of Reserve service. He also attended the Reserve Components National Security Course at the National Defense University, a study of strategies for various international conflicts. He says that he was promoted to full colonel in the Judge Advocate Corps, one of 36 of 2,000 reserve JA officers, through sheer luck.
In 1985, Idalee was killed in an auto accident, leaving Buddy to raise Ginny, nine years old, Mark, fifteen years old, and Johnette, starting college at eighteen years old. Idalee had been very active as a practicing attorney, United States District Court Magistrate, managing the Neighborhood Watch Program, member of the Pleasant Grove School Board, and President of the Junior League.
“Somehow, we made it through, and all of the children finished college and obtained advanced degrees,” Buddy says. “We were truly blessed.”
Buddy married Sherry Jackson in 2003 after a lengthy courtship.
Sherry is a practicing attorney and Municipal Judge of Texarkana, Texas, a bustling court. “I kept waiting, but she wouldn’t propose, so I held on until she agreed to get married! My children say Sherry is their mother’s gift to them,” Buddy says. “As we are both lawyers, we tend to have lively conversations in our house. Sherry is a great friend and spouse, and we are devoted to each other.”
Buddy’s first public position was as City Attorney for Wake Village, Texas. He was elected Justice of the Peace, hearing low-level criminal cases, issuing arrest and search warrants, holding inquests to determine cause of death, and hearing mental commitments for 16 years. He also heard several high-profile deadly force cases. Although a low-level judicial post, many major crimes begin with decisions and instruments issued by the JPs. Buddy served as an Assistant Attorney General for several years and one year as an Assistant District Attorney. “The city of Nash called me and asked if I wanted to be their Municipal judge, and I said I would,” Buddy says.
Then, Buddy was asked to teach in the Texas Police Academy for police officer candidates in 1982 and continued as needed for several years. He was always interested in criminal justice and taught adjuncts for A&M’s criminal justice program. Southern Arkansas University lost a criminal justice professor just before a fall semester, and Buddy joined their faculty at the last minute to start within a few weeks. “After a decade and a half, the drive became a rigor for this old dude, and I chose to go out to pasture, fondly remembering my students and co-faculty at SAU,” Buddy says.
As Buddy reflects on his storied and accomplished career, he believes he has learned two big lessons. “First, life is a mirror, especially in the practice of law. How you treat others will become well-known and the basis for how others treat you,” Buddy says. “I also learned in the Army you don’t have to wait for things to happen; believe it or not, you can make things happen.”
Buddy’s outlook is largely influenced by stories from his father about his parents being well-to-do and losing it all in the depression. “I heard my father say many times, ‘There but for the Grace of God go I,’ Buddy says. “My dad always tried to help others in need, remembering how needy his family became. In 1920, my dad’s parents took in a sick orphan who had lived in the dairy, and my dad was tasked to teach the orphan child what he learned in school daily. They became best friends for the rest of their lives.”
Buddy says his whole life has been lucky and funny, and he hopes that through the opportunities he had in both law and the military, he was able to help others. “In the end, I admire anyone who does good for others, like my father, and my good friend and mentor, Ed Miller. Few people know how generous he was and how he helped so many people in need,” Buddy says. “I just want to emulate the goodwill I saw in them.”