54 years strong: Retired teacher continues work at DA's office
For many people a 26-year career teaching at Crutchfield Elementary School in Sherman would have been enough of a career on which to hang one’s hat. But for Dorothy Fleming, 90, retirement from teaching was just the jumping off point for her next career.
Fleming has been at the Grayson County District Attorney's Office for 28 years.
“I retired in May 1992 and I tried playing bridge, participating in a few clubs and serving in multiple positions at my church (First United Methodist Church). But, I quickly realized that I missed working. So I began looking for a job.
At that time Bob Jarvis was Grayson County’s District Attorney.
Jarvis said of Ms. Dorothy as she came to be known in the D.A.’s Office, “She is without a doubt, one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met.” He said he had grown up with one of her daughters and heard she was looking for something to do.
“I hired her as a runner at first,” he said but she didn’t stay at that position long.
“When I created the Victim’s Assistance Program I put her there to help people. She was a natural.”
He said she helped people fill out forms and went to court as moral support for th. That was support, he said, that she also gave to the office staff.
“Whenever someone was super stressed, they could go talk to her for a pick up and a real pat on the back. After I left,” Jarvis added, “it was always good to come into the office and see her there; she always had a sweet smile and a positive comment. We could all learn how to be kind from Mrs. Fleming.”
Mrs. Fleming was born on October 17, 1930 in a country home south of Van Alstyne. She grew up picking cotton until her parents opened a grocery store in Whitewright. She graduated from Whitewright High School in 1947 and attended the University of North Texas where she met the love of her life, Bob Fleming from Bells. The two were married shortly after she received her bachelor’s degree in Business in February of 1951. He was a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper and they moved to his first station assignment in San Antonio where she worked as a bookkeeper while he did patrols.
Then came moved to El Paso so Bob Fleming could go to school while not on patrol for DPS and Ms. Dorothy worked again as a bookkeeper.
In 1955, Bob Fleming graduated from Texas Western University and left the DPS to go to law school at the University of Texas in Austin. Once again, Ms. Dorothy took a job as a bookkeeper. Once his law school studies were completed, the couple moved to El Paso and he opened a practice with a friend.
The couple had been joined on their journey in 1953 by their son Bob Fleming Jr. and it was the leaving of his first grade teacher in mid year that prompted Ms. Dorothy toward her teaching career.
“I taught first grade at that small cottage school for about four years,” she recently recalled.
“I really enjoyed working with the students, half of whom entered my classroom each year without speaking English. It was a joy to see how quickly they learned and thrived. During my time there, we welcomed two daughters, Karen (1962) and Debbie (1963).”
The family moved to Sherman on October 30, 1963 and she was soon teaching at Crutchfield. And before she knew it, she had been doing that for more than a quarter of a century.
She said the decision to take Bob Jarvis up on his job offer at the D.A.’s office changed her life.
“It was a great move for me. I was once again enjoying working with children and their parents, helping them as they faced difficult situations.”
Then in the summer of 1998, her beloved husband Bob died.
“During that grievous loss, God truly blessed me with the loving support of my family and my family at the District Attorney's Office.”
That second family has felt just as honored to have her working alongside them all of these years. Joe Brown, the second DA she served, said he never saw her in a bad mood and it was hard for others to maintain a bad mood around her.
“She is a great example as to how people should approach their job,” Brown said. And she was really good at keeping the office language use on the up and up.
“You just don’t feel right talking that way (salty) in front of somebody as classy as Ms. Dorothy,” he said.
Current Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith agreed that Ms. Dorothy is the light in the office.
“ Most everyone receives a handwritten note with a card on their birthday from Ms. Dorothy,” he said. He added that she is responsible for labeling all of the office’s felony files, preparing crime victim letters, assisting with Grand Jury in the role of a bailiff (“guarding” the front door), and she also lends assistance by helping in victim’s assistance by sitting with victims during trials or interviews.
“ Ms. Dorothy is certainly a fixture at the DA’s office,” he said.
Fleming said she has enjoyed working with all of the District Attorneys who have held the office while she worked there.
“I have had the incredible privilege of working under three outstanding District Attorneys: Bob Jarvis, Joe Brown, and (currently) Brett Smith. These men have each proved to be dedicated and caring servants. They have demonstrated tremendous leadership and effectiveness in a very difficult role. I am so thankful for them and for all they have accomplished for the good or our community,” she said.
But she didn’t save all of her praise for her bosses.
“I have also been blessed by the knowledgeable support, patience and care of my friend and co-worker Truett Steele. All of the wonderful people that I have served alongside in this office, have impacted my life far beyond what I can express. I truly love and appreciate each of them and ask God to richly bless them for the countless ways they have helped me and so many people in our community,” she said.
Though she is planning to take some time off in mid October for health reasons, Ms. Dorothy said she plans to continue to work at the D.A.’s Office for the foreseeable future.