Limestone County is celebrating its 31st consecutive Sheriff’s Rodeo on May 18th and 19th, and everyone involved is sure that this is going to be the best one yet! It has grown to be an impressive, award winning event from its humble beginnings over 30 years ago, and helps the economy, promotes tourism, supports the special needs community, provides equipment such as squad cars for the Sheriff’s Department, and brings our town and county together for what has been called “impressive entertainment.”
Paul Cain wrote the following regarding this year’s Grand Marshall: “Retiring Lieutenant Randy Bates has accepted our invitation to serve as this year’s Rodeo Grand Marshal. He has spent over 20 years supporting the annual rodeo, preparing the grounds and arena, and devoting tremendous amounts of personal time toward promoting this tradition each and every year.
Randy is the son of the late James Homer Bates and Martha Blake Bates, and was raised in the Reid Community. After high school he attended Calhoun Community College. He is married to Charlotte Blankenship Bates and they share proud parenthood of Paula Curnutt (Brad) and Jamie Bates (Elizabeth), both of Athens. And their grandkids are one of their greatest prides: Madison Curnutt, and, Austin and Andrew Bates.
Randy started his career in law enforcement in the early 1970s as a jailer and dispatcher for the late Sheriff M. W. (Buddy) Evans, working 24 hours on, and 24 hours off. He was later promoted to deputy and graduated from the Northeast AL Police Academy at Jacksonville State University in 1973.
Later that year, the family learned Randy’s father was facing a serious health condition and Randy joined his father’s business as a crane operator. He continued working with the 320 Local of the Operators Engineers in Decatur, and he also became a reserve deputy for Sheriff Blakely in 1986.
In 1993, Sheriff Blakely hired Randy as a patrol lieutenant. He attended numerous training classes, including the completion of the AL Corrections Academy. In 2001, Randy was assigned as the new Work Release Director, the position he holds today. This program ensures eligible inmates pay court ordered child support, fines, and restitution. His diligence and determination to find employment for these inmates is the reason this program has been successful.
When asked about his biggest accomplishment, Randy is quick to praise the work of the local Department of Human Resources because of leading the entire State of Alabama for 2 years in collecting past due child support payments. Much of that was through the work release program and continues today. And because of that relationship locally, many other sheriffs’ offices and DHR offices across the state now have similar programs.
His worst day in law enforcement actually ended up being 2 very similar days, both involving domestic violence cases that resulted in the women and children being victimized. One case resulted in a homicide and suicide, and one resulted in arrest. Although years ago, both still strike a sadness and regret.
One of Randy’s pet peeves is being in uniform and seeing a parent tell a child, “He’ll carry you to jail if you don’t mind.” The scared look on a child’s face when he looks up at a deputy or police officer that their parent has just told them to fear is a look you don’t forget. Randy always carries some small candy or chewing gum in his pocket for little ones, and often becomes a friend rather than a foe to that confused child. Years ago, he was instrumental in making sure every patrol car had among its equipment, at least one teddy bear to give a child in the event of an emergency.
Randy loves coming to work and prides himself with helping people. He will miss that and his law enforcement family most of all when he retires. But he plans on filling his spare time with hunting and fishing, and anything that involves his grandkids. Charlotte says she has a few lists left for him to work on but she too, knows he will stay busy.
When Sheriff Blakely learned of Randy’s impending retirement, he immediately wanted to honor him as Grand Marshal. “Randy has served this community for over two decades, and our rodeo would not be what it is today if not for the effort and dedication of Randy Bates. When he was a reserve, he would take 2 weeks’ personal vacation from his crane operations just to prepare for each year’s rodeo. He spent countless hours preparing and upgrading the arena and its facilities each year. Randy will be sorely missed by me personally and professionally, and he will be missed as Work Release Director. He has placed and supervised 1,244 inmates during his time as Director and has played a major role in the collection of delinquent payments for child support, victims’ restitution and court costs. Many of those he supervised have come by to thank him for the direction that got them back on the right track after they were released from jail.”
“We hope everyone will join us in congratulating Grand Marshal Randy Bates in the upcoming Rodeo Parade May 11 and the 31st Annual Rodeo May 17-18,”added Sheriff Blakely.
Advance tickets went on sale on May 1st. The advance prices are $8 for children and $10 for adults. Gate prices are $10 and $15, respectively.
Tickets can be purchased at the Sheriff’s Office, Railroad Bazaar, Jiffy #1 and #2, Preston’s Western Wear, and West End Chevron and Outdoors, all in Athens, as well as True Discount in Ardmore, TN and Warren’s BP in Rogersville. In addition, the tickets for the free pony rides are available at Arctic Chill Frozen Yogurt, located at 616 Hwy 31 in Athens.
For more information, go to www.limestonesheriffsrodeo.com, or call 256 232-0111.
By: Paul Cain with Ali Elizabeth Turner