Fall Game Warden Justin Hurst

Plans to honor El Campo’s fallen game warden moved forward Monday with city council approving free use of the civic center for a fall ceremony.

The state legislature already approved HB 587, filed by Rep. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton), designating Hwy. 71 from the West Loop south to the Colorado County line as the Game Warden Justin Hurst Memorial highway.

“Justin will forever be remembered for his integrity, devotion and faithful service to the State of Texas,” Stephenson said.

A dedication ceremony for that marker is now set for Thursday, Oct. 12.

In a 5-0 vote with council members Gloria Harris and Jeff Allgayer not present, council voted to set aside the $1,000 fee for use of the civic center’s main hall as well as its $500 deposit.

“During discussion between city council, it was said whatever we can do for our law enforcement, especially a fallen officer we will do whatever it takes,” event organizer Sarah Hudgins said. “I personally want to thank the City of El Campo for their open arms and 100 percent commitment as they have and continue to embrace and support our first responders and our veterans. This means so much to us all.”

Council had previously set aside fees for a memorial ceremony dedicating Hwy. 71 North from El Campo as the Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez Memorial Highway after the Medal of Honor recipient who called the city home.

Hurst was killed March 17, 2007, when an encounter with a poacher shooting from the road led to a chase and a hail of bullets around the Lissie Cemetery. It was his 34th birthday. His killer was found guilty and put to death in Huntsville Jan. 17, 2016.

Hurst’s parents – Pat and Allen – still call El Campo home although his widow and son have since moved away.

The sign won’t be the only memorial to Hurst. Another rests beside the pond at El Campo’s Legacy Park, placed there last year with full law enforcement honors.

The memorial, a large orangish brown stone, shows a simple Texas star and an engraving reading: “In Memory of Texas Game Warden Justin P. Hurst E.O.W. March 17, 2007.” E.O.W. or End Of Watch marks the date of Hurst’s last tour.

In 2007, the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management area was dedicated. The 12,000-acre area is part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Central Coast Wetlands Ecosystem Project off Hwy. 36. It is also where Hurst spent the first six years of his career as a TPWD biologist before becoming a game warden in 2001.

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