Bob Knowles, executive chief deputy in the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department, was praised by his boss on Friday as “one of the great jail commanders” in Texas.
Mr. Knowles died Friday. He was 67.
For more than 40 years, Mr. Knowles worked in the big urban jails of Dallas and Tarrant counties, environments that would not appeal to many people. But he thrived, developing an expertise that brought him great respect.
“Bob loved jails more than anyone I’ve ever known or heard of,” Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said in a news release Friday. “It was a fascinating relationship he had with jails, and it was an honor to have Bob work for me the last 14 years after 27 years of service to Dallas County.
“A recognized expert in the field, Bob was frequently called upon to testify as an expert witness on jail matters of all kinds.
“He possessed an uncanny knowledge and understanding of the jail standards we must all live by. He could quote the standards, chapter and verse, from a book most of us find about as easy to comprehend as a foreign language.”
A former boss, former Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles, seconded Anderson. Knowles was a chief deputy when he left Dallas for the Tarrant County position.
“He mastered the difficult. He had a photographic memory and a whale of a talent,” Bowles said. “He knew jail rules and regulations back and forth. He was an encyclopedia of knowledge and a statistician when it came to knowing every detail when it came to jails.
“He knew everybody and everything when it came to jails.”
Jim Ewell, who was the Dallas County sheriff’s public information officer from 1981 to 1998, called Mr. Knowles “a four-star commander.”
“His style of management was unmatched by anybody I ever met in law enforcement,” Ewell said.
Ewell said Mr. Knowles was not only admired by his colleagues, but by inmates as well.
“He was tough-minded, but he was so fair-minded that the inmates trusted him,” Ewell said. “Anytime there was a complaint, Knowles took a personal interest. The jails ran so smoothly. He ran such a smooth train.”
Sheriff Anderson’s heartfelt news release on Friday made clear that Mr. Knowles was more than just a respected employee.
“This is one of the most difficult messages I’ve ever had to send,” the sheriff wrote. “He was the heart and soul of our jail operation. It’s a huge loss. We’re reeling from it professionally and personally.”
Anderson said the department would fly its flags at half-staff in Mr. Knowles’ honor.
The sheriff said the department’s website was deluged with comments about Mr. Knowles coming “from not just all over the country, but all over the world.”
Mr. Knowles always came to work with a smile on his face and a pleasant greeting for everyone, Anderson said.
“Small in stature, he was tough beyond belief and did more on most days than people half his age,” Anderson said.
“Our hearts ache and there is a large hole to be filled, left behind by a great man.”
Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367
1 p.m. Wednesday at Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 2100 N. Davis Drive, Arlington.
Burial: Moore Memorial Gardens in Arlington