NEWTON COUNTY, Texas — The top lawman in Newton County has decided to hang up his hat at the end of his term in office.

Sheriff Billy Rowles told 12News on Wednesday that he will not run for re-election in 2020.

Rowles was voted to replace former Newton County Sheriff Eddie Shannon in 2016.

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He's served in law enforcement for more than 50 years, beginning as a highway patrol officer for DPS in 1968.

Rowles' lengthy career includes working security for Governor Preston Smith and playing a prominent role in solving the horrific death of James Byrd Jr. in 1998. 

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After spending nearly three decades as a highway patrolman, Rowles spent eight years as Jasper County's Sheriff (1997-2005).

Rowles said in a conversation over the phone that his health and family were primarily the reasons to step down.

"I've enjoyed it, it's been a great career," said Rowles. "But my age is starting to get in the way of all my exercises and everything."

He recently turned 74 years old and would be in office for another four years if re-elected.  

Rowles will finish his one and only term as Newton County Sheriff through the end of 2020.

Cynthia Hall, who serves as Chief Deputy to Rowles, as well as Allen "Rocky" Bridges have already announced plans to run for the Newton County Sheriff position next year.

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