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Remembering a ‘Gentle Giant’

September 13, 2023 - 00:00
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A community honored a former judge whose large physical stature was only overshadowed by the size of his heart. John LeFlore served as Grimes County Justice of the Peace for Pct. 3 or 4 with a stern hand and compassionate heart.

LeFlore, 79, passed away Aug. 31, and was celebrated with three days of services including visitation, a funeral and burial. He was laid to rest at Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Bryan Sept. 6.

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, LeFlore graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School and briefly attended Texas A&M University. He began his law enforcement career at Bryan Police Department and had an extensive career serving in an array of positions for several agencies. His career spanned over 50 years from patrol officer to captain. He served Brazos County Sheriff’s Office and Grimes County Sheriff’s Office before being elected to JP in 2002.

LeFlore also served as Navasota Municipal Judge for many years.

“I have known Judge Le-Flore for many years over his tenure as a Texas Peace Officer and a Texas Justice of the Peace,” said Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell. “He truly made a mark in his public service impacting the youth and most profoundly as a JP to encourage them to make right not wrong decisions in life.”

Sowell spoke about LeFlore’s impact, “Many will grow up recalling the stern, but firm and heartfelt moments of counseling as well as life changing advice received from the judge that made them better citizens in adulthood. His larger-than-life image, and his sometimes-gruff personality was just a façade for the gentle giant he really was.”

The former judge left a lasting impact and was a mentor to many. “I met Judge Le-Flore in 2006 when I started with Navasota Police Department,” said Navasota Police Chief Mike Mize. “Throughout the years, Judge LeFlore has been a mentor to me: from the morning courtroom talks, explanation of search and arrest warrants, to the stories from his policing days.”

LeFlore battled health issues that forced him to retire in 2019, but he continued to stay involved and support others whenever he could. “Last year I earned my biggest accomplishment as a police officer and Judge (even though retired) came to swear me in as the Chief,” said Mize. “I hope he knows he was a big part of my career and will be missed by many.”

His community outreach stretched across many platforms. He was a 4th degree member of Knights of Columbus Council #9367 in Navasota, member of Navasota Masonic Lodge #299 and Washington Lodge #18 A.F.& A.M. and served in various capacities through the years in law enforcement, judicial and community organizations. He was also an active member of Christ Our Light Catholic Church.

“Everyone that knew Le-Flore knew him as a friend. “Big John” was a great friend, lawman, huge supporter of law enforcement and led numerous efforts for area youth,” said Navasota Mayor Bert Miller. “It was a pleasure working with him as Municipal Judge and I am proud to be one of many that he installed into political office. He encouraged me into public service.”

LeFlore was involved in several community-altering projects. In the early 1980’s he helped bring two prison units to Grimes County that provides many jobs. He helped start Grimes County Crime Stoppers and was presented their lifetime achievement award in 2017. As JP he also implemented a truancy program.

One of LeFlore’s proudest accomplishments was officiating over 900 weddings. He used these occasions to not only perform a legal ceremony, but also to interject his Christian values by tailoring the ceremonies to include scripture.

The “Gentle Giant” married his best friend, Diane Scamardo, and the two were married 48 years. He leaves behind two sons, a daughter, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Regardless of the conversation, LeFlore always had a story to share. Those memories will continue to live on in the lives he impacted through the years.