A historic building seasoned by the years is usually exactly as it seems: decrepit, mistreated, and brandishing its surroundings.
The Pulaski County Sheriff's Department building has definitely weathered over time, but the sheriff dwelling inside represents everything contrary.
Behind his lightly tinted retro eyeglasses and beneath his standard beige uniform, Pulaski County Sheriff James (J.B) Benson King occupies only a small portion of his decorated office.
A poster displays the patches worn by all Route-66 law enforcement precincts. Recent letters and receipts glare back into the room from a large bulletin board, displaying King's weekly reminders. Above his five-drawer filing cabinet is an old newspaper article framed in its classic wooden frame. On his desk lay what seems like hundreds of files and reports for his eyes only. Award plaques and pictures decorate the wall behind him.
Then comes a knock at the door – the secretary has a quick question for her superior. Then the phone rings. Then a text message interrupts his conversation.
There's no doubt that Sheriff King is extremely active in his community, but what keeps him engaged is something he has done since Sept.14, 1969.
Upon graduating with a bachelor's degree in science and sociology from the School of the Ozarks in 1969, King applied for the Missouri State Highway Patrol Academy. Almost unexpectedly, he was admitted.
"Quite frankly, it was an accident," King said. "One of the original members of the highway patrol had retired and taken a part-time job at the school, and he started pestering me to turn in an application for the patrol."
Already a member of the School of the Ozarks fire department, King never hesitated to apply, mostly to "get [the original member] off [his] back."
Within five months, King graduated from the academy and was assigned to the Waynesville jurisdiction of Troop-I, where he lasted 32 years before retiring an honorable member of the force.
But, even in retirement King never quite found solace. Three years later he ran for sheriff in Pulaski County and won.
At the end of 2012, after serving two terms as sheriff and receiving an Award of Valor among the many other accolades, King said he plans to retire once again.
Page 2 of 4 - "This is definitely a young man's office, and I can't keep up anymore," he said. "My memory is starting to fade, so it's time to go."
Still attached to Pulaski County, King plans to remain an active reserve deputy to aid the future sheriff.
No doubt King has experienced a history book's worth of stories in his career, some joyous and some not for the faint at heart.
"I once took part in a child abuse investigation where a young man had boiling liquid poured all over his groin area," he recalled. "It was several days before we found him and the skin on his body was badly burned to about 20 different shades of iridescent colors; I'll never forget that sight as long as I live."
Fortunately, King was able to nab the assault offender, who spent two consecutive five-year sentences in jail.
"I've worked wrecks where I've stood there and watched people I knew die," King added. "It's been rewarding on some occasions, but I think for me the heart break is a little more memorable."
His duty can bring tears to a grown man's eyes and he was not bashful in admitting he has spent many nights sobbing into his pillow before bedtime.
"A lot of people in this racket try to bottle up the emotion, but all that does is lead you to a nervous breakdown," King said. "You have to let it out."
Other times have brought the officer a sense of success.
In a 1987 case, John David Brown, a Missouri prison escapee, was confronted in a stolen vehicle by Rolla, Mo. police officers. Upon being stopped, Brown shot an officer before fleeing into a nearby wooded area initiating a manhunt. Two days into the search, Brown shot and killed a church caretaker, extending the search.
"We manhunted for another two months and finally got him," King said. "He was tried, convicted and sentenced to life in a state penitentiary."
Later, in 2005, the sheriff was given information linking Brown to another murder.
Page 3 of 4 - "Over the course of the next two years, we met with [Brown] several times and investigated an area of [Pulaski] County," he said.
Several forms of evidence were unearthed and the King-led investigation solved the case – Brown murdered his girlfriend in 1985.
"We were able to recover enough of her body to identify her, plus [Brown] walked into a Pulaski County courtroom and plead guilty without a trial."
Brown was then handed a second life sentence and was declared ineligible for parole, the ruling creating a form of satisfaction for King because he brought closure to the victim's family.
"Having [Brown] plead guilty in open court and admit he shot his girlfriend in the back of the head was very refreshing to me because that helped wipe out the misinformation the defense had put out in the trial in 1989."
Still on duty
A separate incident awarded King an Award of Valor.
"We had a guy who was belligerently drunk, waving a gun around inside a bar," he said.
King and a group of officers tried to coax the man out of the bar. In refusal, the man fired several shots at officers near the front door of the establishment. While the man reloaded, King ran inside and dislodged the weapon from the criminal's grasp before pinning him to the ground.
"I was either very brave that day or very stupid," he exclaimed before admitting he had blacked out during the incident.
"I do not remember it," he said. "I was standing there holding a shotgun on him and the next thing I know I'm laying on top of him wondering, 'What the hell did [I] just do?'"
Back when King was starting his long, envious career, prostitution rings were just starting and stabbings, shootings and bombings were the norm.
"This has always been a heavy-duty, intense county," King said of his home territory.
And the growth of Pulaski County has made King's job increasingly more difficult, especially since the local population has grown 27 percent to 52,000 residents throughout the last 10 years.
Page 4 of 4 - "The growth has been tremendous. I can think of a gravel road off of Highway Y – when I got here there were about three houses on that road. Now there's at least 800."
At the end of the day
In his off time, Sheriff King enjoys the regular Ozarkian hobbies of fishing and hunting. Aside from that, King is a loving husband and a father to his only son. The man – an avid history buff – has also written two books about the Civil War in Pulaski County.
And, while his place of employment may stand on historical ground (King claims a man was hung somewhere in the vicinity of his office), King has done nothing but add a rich history of his own while serving his county.