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Back in the office: Former sheriff’s family returns historic desk back to WCSO

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019
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Desk delivery

DESK DELIVERY – Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin, Jim Beneke and deputies unload a desk that belonged to former Wise County Sheriff John L. Cearley. Cearley was sheriff from 1902 to 1910. Beneke, Cearley’s great-great-grandson, donated the desk to the sheriff’s office. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

An antique rolltop desk that housed the badges and hats of Wise County sheriffs from 1902 to 1975 has made its way back home.

On Sunday, Jim and Kaye Beneke hauled the oak desk that belonged to their great-great-grandfather, Wise County Sheriff John L. Cearley, who served from 1902 until 1910, back to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s home now,” Kaye Beneke said.

Akin has grown familiar with Cearley as he walks through the hallway shrouded with pictures of former sheriffs on the way to his office. He can now place a name and face with a desk, and Akin said the history of the WCSO just got that much richer.

“It really means a lot to me,” Akin said. “When I walk up and down that hallway, and I see Sheriff Cearley’s picture hanging on the wall, he’s always one of the ones that’s looking back at me. So I’m really excited to have the desk back in the sheriff’s office and back in Wise County.”

The desk remained in the sheriff’s office in the courthouse until it was auctioned outside the Wise County Jail in 1978, according to a Wise County Messenger article.

Permanent addition

PERMANENT ADDITION – Wise County Judge J.D. Clark, Sheriff Lane Akin, Jim Beneke and Kaye Beneke pose in front of the desk that sat in the WCSO from 1902 to 1975. After the desk spent 41 years at Jim Beneke’s home, the family donated the desk back to the WCSO. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

Marjorie Beneke, Cearley’s granddaughter, won a bidding war to keep the desk in her family after the price was raised 41 times, finally claiming the desk with a bid of $185.

It remained in the Beneke family for 41 years.

Decorating to fit an open concept, a drive from Austin to Decatur and a desire to give back resulted in the desk’s return to Wise County.

Jim Beneke reached out to the WCSO and was relieved to hear that the desk that had been in his family for so long would find a deserving home in the sheriff’s brotherhood.

“I think it’s where he would have wanted it to be,” Beneke said.

Deputies hauled the desk from the U-Haul trailer and straight into Akin’s office underneath an American flag, where the sheriff said it will remain.

“1902, that’s incredible,” Akin said. “It’s quite some time ago. We’re proud to have it back in Wise County. It’s really touching to me to have that level of history back in this office. We will make sure that it stays in this office from now on.”

Wise County Judge J.D. Clark was in attendance to welcome the desk delivery. He has a similar historic desk in his office and said it isn’t just a piece of furniture. Instead, he described the desk as context and a place in the county’s unique historical tapestry.

“It’s important for us to hang on to things like that,” Clark said. “Some people might look at it and think it’s a desk, or a piece of furniture. That’s our county history, and it’s something tangible that keeps us in touch with the people that have served before and have done that before. I appreciate the family doing this.”

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