LUBBOCK, Texas — Flags at Lubbock’s courthouse were lowered Monday, in honor of Judge Ruben Reyes, who passed away last weekend due to COVID-19 complications. Judge Reyes was a community leader, well-known for his work on the county drug court. On Monday we spoke to drug court graduates who explained how they were impacted by Judge Reyes’ work.

“He just never gave up,” said drug court graduate Cole Watts. “I mean, I went from being a potential felon to a guy who’s a judge came to his wedding, you know, like it was, it was a transformation.”

Watts is just one of the hundreds of people that Judge Reyes left transformed.

“I think that we would be, I mean, maybe even decades behind other places, if it wasn’t for the impact of Judge Reyes in the drug court,” said Watts.

Shortly after being elected the 72nd District Judge in 2006, Reyes took over the county drug court – a program for those with drug offenses to help them get sober, back on their feet and less likely to face future convictions.

“I felt like no one cared about me. Like, I was just a drug addict,” said drug court graduate Natasha Sperling. “And when I told him that he got emotional. And I could just tell by the way he spoke to me and other participants, that he cared. I mean, he has such a big heart.”

For the many others like Watts and Sperling, Judge Reyes’ compassion and support was all they needed to feel like a person and not just another number in the system.

“He had this way that he when he looked at you… like you could tell that he cared,” Watts said. “I mean, it was like, I don’t really know how to explain it. Except if you saw that look, you would know.”

Watts was inspired by Judge Reyes to start Stages of Recovery, an organization for recovering addicts. He credits Judge Reyes for much of the progress the recovery community has achieved.

“Doing Drug Court was just one way he could touch people’s lives and make them better. And he did that for a lot of people,” said 364th District Court Judge William Eichman. “He did it for the judges here, too. I mean, he made all of us better judges and better people.”

Judge Reyes was nationally recognized for his work on the Drug Court and was appointed to chair of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Judge Eichman, Watts and Sperling all extend their deepest condolences to Judge Reyes’ family.