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Henderson County loses another great leader

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Former county judge Richard Sanders passes away

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HENDERSON COUNTY–Former Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders, who served two terms as the county’s top administrator from 2011 until 2018, died Monday afternoon, Jan. 6 at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, following the recurrence of an extended illness.
Sanders, who grew up in Wellington, in the Texas Panhandle, had a diverse political life while owning a property development and construction company. Sanders, who moved to Athens in the 1980s, served as U.S. Representative Jeb Hensarling’s Athens-based regional director before running for county judge. Funeral services for Judge Sanders had not been set as of press time.
Sanders, who was in his 60s at the time of his death, won the 2010 Republican Party primary and defeated the Democrat nominee, Charles Curtis, in that year’s general election. That victory allowed Sanders to succeed the previous county judge, David Holstein. In 2014, Sanders was unopposed in the primary and general elections, which secured a second term. Sanders left office Dec. 31, 2018.
Current County Judge Wade McKinney announced Sanders’ death before commissioners’ court convened Tuesday, Jan. 7.
“Richard was a good man,” McKinney said. “He had the ability to make any person that he was talking to believe that their issue was his issue. He had an ability to delegate and build coalitions on issues. He was one of those individuals that even if you met him the first time, that when you left, you felt like he was your best friend.”
Commissioner Scotty Thomas, whose Precinct 1 serves much of western Henderson County, remembered Judge Sanders as “a great person, decisive and very conservative.”
Thomas had left office at the end of 2016 and was succeeded by Ken Hayes, who died in Nov. 2018. Upon Hayes’ death, Judge Sanders asked Thomas to come back and fulfill the remainder of Hayes’ term.
“Judge Sanders was for the people of Henderson County more than anyone I’ve ever seen. I can’t say enough good things,” Thomas added.