Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of former Grayson County's Tax Assessor-Collector Ruth Wiley's name.
John Ramsey, Grayson County's tax assessor-collector for seven consecutive terms, died on Wednesday.
Ramsey worked to modernize the office, taking it from huge ledger books to computers and consolidated all 30 taxing entities in the county to one pay location. He also championed the opening of satellite offices in Denison, Whitesboro and Van Alstyne.
Ramsey was born on May 12, 1942 in Bells and went to school there before graduating in 1960. He then attended Texas A&M University and was a member of the corps of cadets. In 1964, he joined the Army and served until 1966, receiving an honorable medical discharge. In 1967, he attended East Texas State University in Commerce. After that, he worked in the insurance industry and eventually opened his own insurance agency in Bells before becoming interested in politics and deciding to run for public office in 1983.
On Thursday, former Grayson County Treasurer Virginia Hughes said Ruth Wiley, the tax assessor-collector prior to Ramsey died while in office. Ramsey ran for the position and when he won, the county commissioners appointed him to take over the role immediately. He was re-elected to the office six more times.
Current Grayson County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Stidham said Ramsey was very welcoming to him after Stidham won the office. Stidham kept all of Ramsey's staff.
“I feel just very fortunate to be able to have stepped into the office with all of the knowledge that my employees had gained under him,” Stidham said adding that Ramsey “is going to be sorely missed.”
Christine Orr worked for Ramsey in the tax office for 23 years.
“He gave me my first real job,” Orr said of Ramsey on Thursday. “He cared about me and about my family and he was always helpful.”
She said Ramsey was always there for his employees when they needed anything, whether it was something they needed at work or at home. Orr recalled one time that she locked her keys in her car at a county dinner.
“He called someone to come and unlock it and he wouldn't let me pay for it,” she said.
Kay Behrens also worked with Ramsey at the tax office.
“John was actually a one-of-a-kind person,” she said, explaining Ramsey went out of his way to help clients find solutions to their tax problems. “He was a very kind man.”
His former staffers said Ramsey also knew his job like few others. He was named the president of the Tax Assessor Collectors in 1992.
“He was probably on every committee that there was in that organization,” Behrens said.
She said during 1992, the organization also awarded Ramsey the TACA Distinguished Service award and Tax Assessor Collector of the Year. His former employees said he enjoyed going to Austin and helping to bring about changes to tax laws or registration rules.
His staffers said Ramsey fostered a family atmosphere at the office would listen to them, but also had his own individual style and didn't mind sharing his opinions, especially about history.
Laura Grigg, who was Ramsey's chief deputy after working her way up from the bottom of the office, said “History made him light up.” She said Ramsey knew Grayson County history well, but he knew Texas history too. She said driving to conferences with him was always a learning experience as Ramsey would enlighten his passengers with the histories of the places they traveled through.
Listing the area civic organizations that Ramsey wasn't a part of would be quicker than listing the ones he participated in. His interests were varied and he gave a part of himself to the area organizations that supported those interests from the local Lions Club to the Grayson County Historical Society. He was also interested in HAM radios and got his license to operate those. He was an active Hella Shriner and a member of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. He was the current president of the Sherman Noon Lions Club, with 27 years of participation and was the past president of the Bells Lions Club. He was the current president of the Grayson County Historical Commission and was a current member of the Bells City Council. He also remained an active member of the local Democratic Party.
Hughes said Ramsey didn't just support his interests, he would support the efforts of others as well. She said they were once fundraising for something at the county and needed someone who would allow the winner of the fundraiser to hit them in the face with a pie. Ramsey stepped up for the cause.
Grayson County Commissioner David Whitlock said he grew up with Ramsey and they knew each other most of their lives.
“He was my friend,” Whitlock said on Thursday. “He was an easy-going fellow who tried to help everybody and got along with everyone.”