Personality Profile: Hayden relaxing down on the farm
by GREG KAYLOR Banner Staff Writer
Jun 02, 2014 | 1371 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hank Hayden sits with a Saint Bernard on his farm in Charleston.
Hank Hayden sits with a Saint Bernard on his farm in Charleston.
After fulfilling his patriotic duties as a member of the military, John “Hank” Hayden returned to Tennessee and began a long career in law enforcement. His path eventually led him back to his hometown, where he would retire with honors.

He hasn’t been put out to pasture, but that is where he spends most of his time nowadays.

Hayden retired as Charleston’s police chief earlier this year. He still hangs around the small historic city located in northern Bradley County. Recently, he sold antiques as part of the now-famous Highway 11 yard sale.

Hayden has been a collector of artifacts for years.

Prior to spending 10 years as Charleston’s chief, he served 29 years with the Chattanooga Police Department, where he jokes he “made things fun.”

In his job, if you didn’t lighten up a little, the stress of the job — and especially in his specialty — could be detrimental.

He was the area’s leading officer for the Chattanooga Bomb Squad.

His education really began after high school. Hayden entered the U.S. Navy in 1963.

After serving three tours of duty in Vietnam and receiving a number of ribbons and medals for his missions, Hayden was placed on active reserve.

He was classified as an ordnance mechanic. He also became a certified skydiver and scuba diver.

After the battles and the dust settled, Hayden continued to learn about ordnance.

“I was in the first graduating class at Cleveland State’s Law Enforcement Academy, where I got my associate of science degree,” Hayden said.

When he returned to Tennessee, Hayden joined the Chattanooga Police Department as a patrolman.

That was in 1971.

By 1975, he was promoted to detective sergeant in the Criminal Intelligence Division. He was a graduate of the FBI Academy and in 1986, traveled to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama where he underwent training at the FBI Hazardous Devices School.

For several years, Hayden continued to cultivate his education about explosives.

One of the high points of his career was when he was chosen to lead the Bomb Squad.

Always the jokester, Hayden kept his patrol on their toes and didn’t provide much undue praise.

“Well … I did this today … I did that today, they would say,” Hayden said, “So after a while, I commissioned an artist to make me a drawing of hog (that was blind) wearing sunglasses, carrying a white cane and holding up an acorn.”

What Hayden was referring too is the fact that although many jobs in police work are mundane or go unnoticed, they are still a part of the job as a police officer.

“Everyday duties in fighting crime don’t necessarily warrant an award. Your reward is in your accomplishment in fighting and solving crime. So some of these officers under me would complain because they didn’t get a pat on the back,” Hayden explained.

Remember the drawing?

Hayden would playfully present the award to those who registered those complaints that they hadn’t received a proverbial “pat on the back.”

“Sometimes in police work, solving some crimes can happen when they literally, fall in your lap. You were not doing anything out of the ordinary … it’s just the way it happened.”

The moral of the story: Sometimes even a blind hog can find an acorn, according to Hayden.

“I used to get in a lot of trouble as a prankster,” Hayden said with a chuckle.

One of his most important services while as a policeman was during the 1996 Summer Olympics at the whitewater rowing venue on the Ocoee River. He was in preparation and safety production during the Olympics.

ATF officials praised Hayden for his work as an explosive ordnance devices specialist and his dedication to providing public safety during the event.

Hayden has been a teacher of many a young cop, whether it be on the streets or at the scene of a bomb threat.

He was also called into action in Cleveland a few years ago, when two pipe bombs were found weeks apart.

They were safely disposed of, and all went back to normal.

Hayden now lives the normal life himself.

He maintains acres of farmland and yard, tending to the dozens of animals he has taken in due to his kind heart and soft spot for animals.

Hayden and his wife, Connie, are still an active couple in the Charleston area, but residents just don’t see him every day now.

He has holstered his guns and now has time to watch the sunrise every day — still recalling the antics of his career.