The Judge That Saved a County

The Texas Story Project.

Judge Monroe Elms was elected as a Presidio County's Judge in 1991. Judge Monroe always looked for a way to better his community. Being a county judge comes with responsibilities like federal and state programs, judicial duties, international crossings and economic development, but not only these. Judge Monroe Elms told me how he was taken in a helicopter in 1992 to identify recovered body parts of four crew members that crashed a B-1B bomber near the Mexican border. The body parts of the victims were placed on a cookie sheet for him to identify. Judge Elms not only had to identify these people himself but also notify the families of these victims on live TV.

Although some of his duties were unfortunate, others made him prosper. Presidio County was one of the poorest counties when Judge Elms was in office. Presidio County is right next to El Paso, TX which is a pretty big city. El Paso was, in a way, stealing water from Presidio County. This was leaving many towns without water just for El Paso to make more money out of this water. Judge Elms along with Judge John Conoly and Judge Bob Dillard organized meetings later that year to find a way to recover water for their counties. The Texas Legislature then created the underground water district. With this act the small counties had some control of their water. This underground water district became so famous, counties close to them started to create this same type of district for their water to be preserved. In 1991, Judge Elms also got the chance to help people along the border of Rio Grande have clean water for personal use. He is very proud about this project because not many people were really happy about Judge Elms helping these people in the border out.

Presidio county is the 14th poorest county in the nation. Because of this fact, people had no resources as basic as water or even gas. Federal money was used for this project so it was a longer process than usual. Elms explained how they had to apply and work hard to get this money for something so essential as water in these people’s houses. People were mostly against his project due to the fear of crime rates going up. Drug trafficking was the main reason why people did not support Elms' project. People believed that when you put clean water in an area people would just come and live there. Citizens feared that this place would attract drug traffickers due to the location so close to the border and how not many people lived in this area. Citizens had to start believing it would be a good thing because it was truly good. Judge Monroe Elms gave clean and useful water to many people that needed it. Judge Elms retired as a county judge but still treasures his memories of the good times in the form of newspaper clippings and more.

I was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. McAllen is my city but my heart is in Tamaulipas. My parents were both raised in Mexico and that is why I feel such a big connection to the border. I am currently a junior working on my International Relations degree and a minor in Spanish in St. Mary’s University.

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