On Jan. 26, 2003, John Malcolm Bales had just been named chief of the criminal division for the federal Eastern District of Texas Lufkin office.
A week later, debris from the space shuttle Columbia explosion rained down all over East Texas. Bales stepped up and organized a command center.
That sense of duty and decades of experience has now landed Bales in the top spot as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.
The U.S Senate on Tuesday confirmed Bales as U.S. Attorney in a unanimous decision.
He has been Acting U.S. Attorney for the District since May 2009, and was nominated by President Barack Obama for the official position on June 28.
The Eastern District of Texas is comprised of 43 counties stretching from the Oklahoma border to the Gulf of Mexico. The district includes six fully staffed offices in Beaumont, Plano, Tyler, Sherman, Texarkana and Lufkin with more than 100 employees, including 50 prosecutors.
Bales, 56, of Nacogdoches, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin and his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1980.
He worked briefly as an attorney for the law firm of Hancock Piedfort in Austin and served five months as a Judge Advocate General attorney in the U.S. Navy.
In 1982, he resigned his commission to become a Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Bales worked as a field agent in the San Antonio, Mobile, and Chicago field offices.
In Chicago, he investigated public corruption cases, most notably the "Greylord" case. A total of 92 people were indicted, including 17 judges, 48 lawyers, 10 deputy sheriffs, eight policemen, eight court officials and state legislator James DeLeo.
He resigned from the FBI in February 1989 and joined the U.S. Attorney's Office as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division.
There he was assigned to the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force unit for the district and worked complex narcotics cases until he became the Deputy Chief/OCDETF Lead Attorney in 1993.
He continued to investigate and prosecute cases as well as lead the five-person OCDETF group until May 1995 when he accepted a position as an AUSA in Denver, Colo.
He worked in the general crimes division for three months, but returned to the Eastern District to work as the AUSA assigned to the new Lufkin Division office in 1995.
In Lufkin, Bales worked on a general crimes docket, which included OCDETF cases and some significant white-collar crime cases. As the Lufkin branch grew, Bales informally assumed Attorney-in-Charge responsibilities as well.
In early 2002, Bales was designated the Professional Responsibility Act Officer for the District and is also the point of contact for the CEOS cases. He was named the new Chief of the Criminal Division in 2003.
He served as Criminal Chief for three-and-a-half years and then returned to the line where he prosecuted narcotics, public corruption and capital murder cases.
AUSA Bales received two Department of Justice Sustained Superior Achievement Awards in 1989 and 1992. He has been recognized by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI on several occasions for his case accomplishments.
In 1995, the East Texas Peace Officers Association awarded him its annual Award of Excellence. He is the 2004 recipient of the J. Michael Bradford Award presented by the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys to the nation's outstanding AUSA.
In 2007 , he received the Attorney General's Distinguished Service Award in connection with his work on a historic maritime pollution case.
Bales and his wife, Betsy, have been married for more than 30 years and are the parents of six children and have six grandchildren.
He is expected to be sworn-in officially as the 32nd U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas in the near future.