Political activity in Hopkins County is getting geared up even though the start of the official filing period is more than 10 months away.
The activity kicked off this week when Hopkins County Assistant District Attorney Clay Harrison announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for the office of judge of Hopkins County Court-at-Law, currently held by Republican Amy Smith. Judge Smith, who also served as an assistant district attorney, recently announced that she would retire when her term expires in December 2018.
Harrison, a lifelong resident of Hopkins County, graduated from Sulphur Springs High School and attended The University of Texas at Austin, where he was a group commander in the University’s Air Force ROTC program. After graduating from college, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force at age 20. He then attended Baylor University’s law school on a full academic scholarship.
After taking the bar exam, Harrison joined the Air Force Judge Advocate General [JAG] Corps and served as a military attorney at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia. For two years, he practiced a variety of law on behalf of U.S. service members including wills, probate, family law and civil law.
“When you’re practicing law in the military, things work a little differently,” Harrison said. “Military members come from all 50 states, so when you’re drafting a will or advising on family law, you have to take into account where the client is from. Being a Texas attorney living in Georgia while advising on Arkansas family law and drafting Alaska wills was quite an experience.”
Harrison was later assigned to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, where he served as the chief of military justice for one of the Air Force’s largest overseas bases. He supervised a team of attorneys, paralegals and clerks, and oversaw criminal cases for the 7,500-member base. He prosecuted numerous criminal cases involving child pornography, sexual assault, drugs and theft.
In 2010, he was deployed to the tropical island of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines in support of counterinsurgency operations against the Abu Sayyaf (“Bearer of the Sword”) terror group. The Abu Sayyaf organization made its reputation as a particularly violent jihadist threat, specializing in kidnapping for ransom operations. As the lone attorney for a joint special operations unit of Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other combat soldiers, he advised military commanders on the law of war and rules of engagement. He also directed an intelligence program that rewarded local civilians for providing information on high value enemy targets.
He separated honorably from the Air Force in 2012 in order to return home to Texas.
Harrison joined Will Ramsay’s team of prosecutors at the District Attorney’s office in October 2014. Since then, he has tried 22 fully litigated cases to the jury or to the court, written nine appeals, and had several notable jury trials.
Along with his work as a prosecuting attorney Harrison has written two books: “The Great and Terrible Wilderness” and, later, “The Stubborn Texan,” a conservative defense of the U.S. Constitution.
Outside of work, Harrison and his wife lead the Crossover young adult ministry at The Way Bible Church, are active in Crossfit, and are expecting their first child in April. Harrison is the son of Dr. Juan and Mrs. Sheri Harrison, both career educators. His wife Tara is the daughter of Mike and Sandra Gibby of Birthright.