Hoover exits courtroom at 85

Shenandoah County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Hupp, left, chats with court bailiff Buddy Hoover, 85, who worked his last day on Tuesday. Hoover has worked as bailiff for the past 22 1/2 years. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Few people have seen the inside of a courtroom more than Buddy Hoover during his 22 ½ year career as a bailiff in Shenandoah County Circuit Court.

A hearing on a divorce late Tuesday marked his last case. When it was over, Hoover, still sprightly at 85, left the courthouse in uniform for the last time and retired for good.

Hoover was well into retirement from his first career as a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier when former Sheriff Marshall Robinson approached him about working as a bailiff.

“I just wanted to do something, and Marshall asked me if wanted to be in the court,” Hoover recalled.

Hoover has seen many thousands of cases, criminal and civil, since then. Years after he began working as a bailiff, Hoover learned he would have to be able to carry a gun in the courtroom, something only a certified deputy who has passed an approved program at a law enforcement academy is allowed to do.

Shenandoah County Circuit Court bailiffs Buddy Hoover, left, and Rick Rinker share a laugh prior to court proceedings in Shenandoah County Circuit Court in May. Rich Cooley/Daily

He enrolled in a seven-week program at Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Training Academy in Weyers Cave.

“I was 77 years old,” Hoover recalled. “I think I was the oldest one ever to do that thing.”

The curriculum was manageable but Hoover said he was challenged by a section called “defensive tactics,” which involved training for physical struggles.

“Defensive tactics is a little tough when you get older,” Hoover said.

Hoover said everyone he worked within the courthouse treated him with respect, perhaps, he said, chuckling, in deference to his advanced age.

Bailiff Buddy Hoover checks his docket during a court recess on Tuesday in Shenandoah County Circuit Court. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I’ve told them I’m going to miss it, I’m going to miss them but there comes a time,” Hoover said.

His time as a bailiff coincided with an era of mass shootings and terrorism attacks that have spurred more extensive security measures in courthouses around the nation. Shenandoah County has been no exception.

“They installed metal detectors, that sort of thing, and there’s a lot more thought about security than there used to be,” Hoover said. “We search before and after courts, and things like that. We didn’t used to do that.

“Of course, 9/11 brought a lot of that stuff on, too.”

Judge Dennis L. Hupp was especially grateful for Hoover’s long tenure and spoke of the friendship they forged outside the courtroom as baseball fans who traveled together to Washington to see the Nationals play.

Hupp called Hoover’s retirement a “bittersweet” moment that brings a “well-earned rest” for Hoover with the loss of a trusted companion whom he is “going to miss tremendously.”

“We’ve developed a very close friendship and a great working relationship,” Hupp said. “He certainly does the job well, and we know each other extremely well. He more or less knows what I want to do, and I know what he’s going to do.”

Conversations with Hoover, Hupp said, were a welcome outlet for speaking his mind when legal rules and etiquette tend to inhibit judges from speaking candidly in public about those who appear before them in court.

“There are times … when I need someone I can confide in and say what I want to with absolute trust,” Hupp said.

Hoover was the person Hupp turned to in such moments.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com