May 31st, Russ Thomason will retire from the position he’s held for over 18 years. He’s been elected five times as Eastland County’s Criminal District Attorney.
Thomason’s term doesn’t end until the end of 2022; however, he felt it would offer the office more continuity if he retired early. This would allow his First Assistant District Attorney, Paul Lewallen, to serve as DA for over a year before the next election. Thomason hired Lewallen over two years ago, so his transition to DA will be seamless. He only lacks the official appointment by Governor Abbott, which should come in the next few weeks.
Thomason felt that staying to the end of his term would be a little selfish. He said he wants the office to succeed, wants it to continue to have a good reputation, and wants the person who takes the job to do a better job than he’s done. “One thing I do know is I’ve got great people working here,” he said with a smile.
Thomason didn’t start with the dream of becoming a district attorney. Before he moved to Eastland, he had a nursing degree and had spent time in the Midland-Odessa area as a hospital administrator. When he realized this wasn’t a career he enjoyed, he went back to school for his law degree.
Born in Albany, Texas, and having both sides of his family with land in the Moran area, his goal was to stay close to that area. In 1994 during his second year of law school, he and his family started looking for a place to settle. He told his wife and his kids that he would be happy if they could get him within 50 miles of Moran. After looking at many towns in the area, a family vote landed them in Eastland. He purchased and remodeled a building on the square that became home to his law firm and Eastland Title & Transfer.
Because he was a criminal defense attorney and had defended drug dealers and other criminals, some frowned on his bid to run for district attorney. He had been defending drug dealers and criminals. How could he be a prosecutor? But as Thomason is quick to remind people, the job of the district attorney “is not to convict people, it is to seek justice.”
Thomason was seen by many as a lawyer who took his job seriously and worked hard. He says some people who were more law enforcement oriented and some police officers approached him to consider running for DA. That first 2002 election was the only time he faced an opponent.
The toughest part of the job, Thomason said, was “dealing with rumors”. “It was tough on my family,” he said. His kids were in high school when he was first elected, and they were sometimes harassed by students at school and even by adults.
Social media has caused Thomason some irritation. It concerns him that misinformation on social media could taint a jury pool. He’s defended the accused on social media when someone posted incorrect information about the accused person. “Everyone deserves a fair trial”, he said.
On the plus side of the district attorney gig… Thomason says the most rewarding part of the job is seeing the human condition and seeing change. “I believe people can change. I love seeing change,” he said. He’s had people he’s prosecuted come up to him later and thank him, telling him that because he was tough on them, they had changed their lives. He believes in treatment and said he’s sent more people to treatment than any small county in the Big Country.
Thomason loves working for victims. He loves seeing them become educated, seeing them get justice, seeing them survive. He loves seeing victims no longer being victims. He is always pleased when he receives updates from former victims about their continuing successes.
Thomason’s plans for the future seem to be to step out of the limelight and make himself scarce. He has no political aspirations and has no plans to continue his law practice. He’s helping another prosecutor in another county on a case, and when that case ends, he says he will probably retire his bar license.
It seems his goal for the future is to be a cowboy. He’s building a house on the land that’s been in his family for 130 years. He said he has a lot of fence building to do, cows to play with, and his big plan is to “tear up a bunch of stuff with his bulldozer.”
Exiting from the district attorney’s office, Thomason seems to be riding off into the sunset.
Thanks, Russ Thomason, for your years of devoted service to Eastland County.
A retirement reception for Russell D. Thomason will be held
Friday, May 21st at 5 p.m. at the
Lumber Yard Event Center
313 W. Main St., Eastland.