Hattie, Alice, and Virginia lived in Aransas County for many years, yet they are relatively unknown. These women were strong in a man’s realm. The investigation begins with Hattie.
Hattie Peets was born in 1872 in Texas. She married and had two children. One of her sons, Oscar, died from the 1918 influenza at the age of 20. He was a Naval Apprentice Seaman. Clara Alma, a daughter, lived in Rockport with her family. Hattie was a housewife and would assist her husband in his job. When she became a widow in 1940, Hattie assumed new duties.
Alice Rooke was born in Athens, TX in 1890. She grew up in Beeville with relatives after her parents died. For 28 years, Alice worked for Aransas County. The 1940 census lists her occupation as assessor-tax collector. She was active in the Rockport Rebekah Lodge #88. In 1941, Alice was promoted.
Virginia Adolphus was born in 1910 in Rockport. She had four children. Virginia was active in community organizations, graduated from business school, and helped in her family’s grocery store. The building is still here, located across the street from the old Rockport School on Live Oak Street. In 1962, Virginia became a widow and entered into a man-dominated profession.
Alice Rooke Thomerson, Hattie Peets Brundrett, and Virginia Adolphus Shivers were Aransas County Sheriffs!
When Sheriff J.A. Brundrett died, after serving 28 years as sheriff, the County Commissioner’s Court appointed Hattie to the position. Hattie finished out his term (Dec. 9-31, 1940). J.A. didn’t drive, so Hattie or a deputy would drive him about doing his duties, said Alma Jones, her granddaughter. Hattie was 80 when she died in 1952.
In 1941, the Commissioner’s Court appointed Alice Thomerson sheriff. She had been Sheriff Brundrett’s deputy for 28 years. Because of ill health, Alice did not run for a second term. In 1957, Alice died. She was 67.
Virginia “Pinky” Shivers was appointed sheriff in 1962 to finish her husband Arley’s term. Then she was elected and served in office until 1965. Pinky was, at the time, the third elected female sheriff in Texas. A reporter asked her if she ever carried a gun while serving as sheriff.
“No, that is what I have my boys for,” was her reply.
Virginia died in 2007 at 97.
Aransas County is celebrating its Sesquicentennial (1871 - 2021) this year. There have been three women sheriffs during those years. Few people know this historical fact, and few people know about Hattie, Alice, and Virginia.
(Special thanks to JoAnn Morgan for her investigative leads writing this article; Alma Jones, granddaughter of Hattie, who provided Hattie’s picture; Rhonda Konieczny, Sheriff’s Office, for Virginia’s picture; and Marie Seaman, First Baptist Church, for research.)