At six years old, he worked in the fields picking cotton to help his family make ends meet.
At 17, he dropped out of high school and joined the military.
But even with everything stacked against him, he has risen to become the city and county’s new emergency management coordinator.
Past few years
Bridge retired from the Corpus Christi Police Department in 2008, having served in a variety of positions, many of which would prepare him for this new role in Bee County.
Since then, he has worked in several different jobs.
“I lived out my lifelong dream of being a full-time cowboy,” Bridge said. “I did that for three or four years. I needed some time to get that out of my system.
“Plus, I volunteered with different organizations.”
That just wasn’t enough for him though. He missed the excitement and fast-paced life.
“This is what I do. This environment is what I do,” he said. “As a captain, I had the opportunity to be an incident commander for different scenarios. Also, as commanders, we helped out in the emergency operation center in Corpus Christi.”
Bridge, who retains his law enforcement certification, said that what is different now is that he won’t be on the scene of the emergency.
“Now, instead of being on the scene as a first responder, I will be behind the scenes,” he said.
Bridge was born in Beeville on the west side of town.
His is the son of Guadalupe Torrez and Bennie Bridge.
His grandmother was Guadalupe Torrez, who many will likely know as a midwife.
“She was a self-taught midwife,” he said. “I cannot tell you how many people I have run into here that know me or my family... and they say ‘Did you know that your grandmother delivered all three of my kids?’
“Anybody that is my age or older, if they lived on the west side of Beeville, they were probably delivered by my grandmother.”
“She would come home with a little pig or basket of eggs under her arm. That is how they paid. Nobody had any money.”
At six years old, Bridge remembers being in the field with his mother.
“My mom would have a 50-pound burlap sack, and I would pick cotton right next to her,” he said. “There was no babysitting or day care, so your mom took you with her. Not to say this is a bad thing. That was just the way it was.”
“I remember when I was 10 years old, my mom sent me with my uncle on the back of the truck to Berclair,” he said. “We were paid to pull the tops off of corn.”
He didn’t know why they were doing this. He just knew that was what he was being paid to do and suspected it was part of an experiment.
At 17, Bridge dropped out of high school. At that time, he was going to Pettus High School, having moved out to the family ranch seven years prior.
He joined the military, which would ultimately lead to a chain of events that would bring him back to Beeville.
Bridge was at Fort Sill, Okla., when officers from the Houston Police Department spoke to the servicemen looking for new recruits.
Something about those officers ignited a spark inside of Bridge.
“I don’t know why,” he said. “Those guys walked in, and, instantly, I knew that is what I wanted to do.”
Thanks to a military program, Bridge received his diploma – something he would need to begin his college education.
When his tour was up, Bridge went to work at Chase Field as a civilian and enrolled in college.
There, he met, among others, Bill Lazenby, who was teaching classes at what was then Bee County College.
Bridge wasn’t quite finished with his law enforcement classes when his father died though.
He had watched his father deteriorate for two years as he suffered with cancer.
“Basically, we saw him wither away. He had throat cancer. He couldn’t eat,” Bridge said.
His death hit Bridge hard. Even now, something in Bridge’s voice changed as he spoke.
“I just left. I was single, and I just left,” he said.
In what some might see as fate, he ended up back in Oklahoma — where he had first met the men from Houston PD.
He got a job with Oklahoma City PD, received his peace officer’s license, met his wife, Linda Zimmerman, and decided it was time to move back to Texas.
In 1983, Bridge was hired on with the Corpus Christi Police Department.
He worked his way through the ranks as field training officer for new cadets, then onto the DEA narcotics task force and, eventually, a lieutenant and then captain.
In 2008, he retired.
“I always felt law enforcement is a calling,” he said.
“Not in the same way as a man preaching the word of God.
“People don’t do it for the money. People don’t do it for the praise.
“It takes a certain type of personality that wants to do that job.”
This week, he was formally hired to replace David Morgan, who retired as emergency management coordinator for the city and county.
Morgan said that Bridge was chosen from among 20 applicants for this position.
“I think the deciding factor was Mr. Bridge’s familiarity with the area and the people here,” Morgan said. “He certainly has the experience and capability as a retired captain from Corpus Christi Police Department.”
Morgan said that Bridge also volunteered at the emergency operations center when Ike was threatening this area.
“He has already been up there and done the job,” Morgan said.
“He was the logical choice.”
Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez added, “I think it is great to have somebody who knows the people and the community.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.