NEWARK, Texas -- James Edgemon has been a volunteer firefighter in this town of close to 1,000 since 1963.

For close to 50 of those 54 years, he has served as chief. The top job ends Monday. "I guess, it's just time," said Edgemon on Friday.

The department has close to two dozen volunteer firefighters now. It was far fewer decades ago.

"I started by just hopping on the truck and going along," said Edgemon.

Over the years, he became the fire station's undisputed leader when it came to everything from tragic fires to horrible car crashes and emergency responses.

"We see it all," he said. "You can ask somebody, or tell somebody, and I've always been on the asking part."

Firefighters were stunned to recently hear Edgemon was stepping aside. Assistant Chief Jerry Taylor was elected as the new chief, a post he assumes on January 1.

"It's going to feel different. We're not sure how to react," Taylor said. "It's very big shoes to fill, and they're shoes that will leave a mark at this station forever."

Edgemon said he'll still remain, at least for a little while, as a volunteer. The camaraderie of the firehouse helps keep him in the know.

"I don't Facebook," he said with a chuckle. "And I don't talk on the phone a lot."

The 75-year-old said he thinks the community and department will rally behind the new chief.

Taylor said as far as he's concerned, the man who taught most of the department what they know about firefighting will always be in charge.

"He's chief forever," he said.