Everyone’s life has milestones. Some a few, others have many. Paul Hudson’s life fits into the category of many.
“I’ve been fortunate to have done the things I’ve done and enjoyed them,” he said. Hudson and wife Ann, live on land in Cool Spring his father once farmed.
“I’m a farm boy. I’m a Sussex Countian through and through,” he says proudly.
Hudson, who turns 82 next month, was born in Rehoboth Beach. The family lived in Rehoboth until he was 7 years old, when his father purchased the farm.
Six months before Hudson graduated from Lewes High School in 1946, a man asked the school district superintendent if he knew a farm boy who was good at math. Hudson said the superintendent told the man he had just the kid for him – if he could put up with his lead foot. The man’s name was Charlie Mills.
“Mr. Mills wanted someone that was very good in mathematics because he owned seven fertilizer plants. He tilled ground in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia,” he said. Hudson became Mills’ driver and also did the payroll for his businesses. He worked for him for nearly a decade.
Whenever Mills had to make a trip to Washington, D.C., where he served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s advisory board, Hudson was behind the wheel.
“I had made up my mind that I was going into the Delaware State Police, and I didn’t know how I was going to tell Mr. Mills. He was one of the most brilliant individuals I’ve ever worked with,” Hudson said.
He said they made the trip to and from D.C., and each time there was a lull in the conversation and Hudson started to tell Mills his plans, Mills would interrupt.
“We got home, I pulled right into the driveway, parked the car, cut it off, took the keys out, put ‘em on the dash and said, ‘Skipper, I’ve gotta talk to you’,” Hudson said.
They sat in the car and talked for about three hours. Hudson said he told Mills he wanted to be a state trooper.
“I’d spent two weeks short of 10 years when I left him. The hardest thing I ever did in my life was telling Charlie Mills I was going to leave. He was like a father to me,” Hudson said.
But, he said, Mills understood because Mills hadn’t followed in his father’s footsteps.
“My dad, Stephen P. Hudson, was a finish carpenter and a small farmer. I told Mr. Mills if I don’t make it or if they won’t take me, at least I know I tried,” Hudson said.
He said Mills told him if he ever wanted his job back, it would be waiting for him.
“I never went back, but he and I remained extremely close friends right up till the day he died. I was the last person to talk to him,” Hudson said. He said he revered Mills’ intelligence. “He was just a brilliant individual. I can’t say much more than that,” he said.
Hudson was accepted to the police academy and made it through. He said being a state trooper was all he thought it would be – and more.
“I worked on the road, as everybody does when you start, and I loved investigation and became very active in criminal investigation,” he said. Hudson started at Troop 4 in Georgetown and became chief investigator and head of the troop’s detectives. Later, he was promoted and assigned to headquarters in Dover. “I enjoyed working with the detectives and FBI agents. The department was very good to me,” he said.
Hudson said he remembers being sent to Wilmington in 1968, following the murder of Martin Luther King Jr.
“I had five men in my car and five men in a couple cars from Bridgeville. We stayed there until we got the valley settled down,” Hudson said. He said rioters were turning over their own vehicles and setting fire to them. “They turned cars over right in the middle of the intersection. I could never understand that; it didn’t make any sense to me at all,” Hudson said.
He said he spent a week in Wilmington, came home, rested a couple days, and went back once more.
“The Delaware State Police is a very good organization. It’s a well-run organization and they believe in education,” Hudson said of classes he took at Northwestern University, the University of Minnesota and the FBI Academy.
Hudson said that, as a state trooper, the most troublesome cases for him were those where children or women were harmed.
“When I was called to where there was a child dead or where a man had beaten a woman, knocked her on the ground, killed her, I would think about my own two kids,” Hudson said.
He also served as the state police youth officer, which at that time covered every school in Sussex County.
“I was there to talk to driver education classes and put on assemblies Friday morning if it was a public safety thing,” he said.
Hudson said if students were headed for trouble, his job was to get them on the right track.
“It’s because of their parents that most kids end up with problems. The kids didn’t ask to be brought into this world,” he said. He started his dream job as a state trooper in 1956 and retired in 1976 at the rank of captain. “It’s been an extremely good life,” said Hudson.