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1931 to World War II

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American flag2 flying at half-mastIn Honor of those who died in the line-of-duty

Colonel William F. Reid
1939-1940

Colonel Jesse J. Gilliam
1941-1945

Colonel H. Neil Kirkman
1945-1970


On November 23, 1931, under the administration of Governor Doyle E. Carlton, at the request of the Chairman of the State Road Department, Attorney General Cary D. Landis ruled it shall be the duty of the State Road Department to maintain the state roads and enforce the laws enacted to preserve its physical structure. As a result of this ruling, the road department hired 12 weight inspectors who were placed under the supervision of the division engineers. This was the beginning of state law enforcement in Florida.

Gov. Sholtz and Mr. Treadway inspect new equipment. Select photo to enlarge.In January 1934, under the administration of Governor Dave Sholtz, a Division of Traffic Enforcement was created as a result of an Attorney General's opinion indicating the division could enforce the motor vehicles laws. As a result, E. A. Shurman was appointed Traffic Inspector. The division was given a distinctive military style uniform, forest green in color.

In 1935, Chairman of the State Road Department, C. B. Treadway, authorized an increase of strength to 25 traffic inspectors. Upon graduation from a training school held in Palatka, the new recruits were given either a motorcycle or a small sedan and assigned to duty patrolling the highways in Florida. The force of men had increased to 45 by February 1936 and Chief Traffic Inspector E. A. Shurman held a four week training school in Ft. Myers for all 45 inspectors. These men reported to Tallahassee on March 2, 1936, for inspection by Governor Dave Sholtz and C. B. Treadway. The traffic inspectors were then assigned duties throughout the state under the supervision of Chief Shurman and three lieutenants, M. Oakford, J. G. Gallop and C. C. Sheppard.

In July 1936, Chairman C. B. Treadway appointed Army Major H. Neil Kirkman, Chief of the State Road Department's Traffic Division because of his experience in the Armed Forces associated with traffic and his background in engineering. Army Major Kirkman was the engineer supervising the construction of the Palatka Memorial bridge over the St. Johns River.

Monday, August 31, 1936, the first Florida State Officer died in the line of duty. Patrolman Royston E. Walker was shot and killed as he attempted to arrest a violator in Cross City. He joined the Department in early 1936 and trained in Ft. Myers. He had served the citizens of Florida for seven months.

When Fred P. Cone was elected Governor in 1937, as an economic move, he abolished the traffic enforcement division of the State Road Department even though it performed valuable service to the citizens of Florida during the years of service.

The American Legion and the Jaycees strongly supported the idea of establishing a highway patrol to serve the needs of the motoring public. Richard (Dick) W. Ervin was the attorney for the State Road Department and his supervisor was Arthur B. Hale, Governor Cone's Chairman of the State Road Department.

Chairman Hale authorized Mr. Ervin to prepare legislation to create a Department of Public Safety with a highway patrol division and a driver license division, and lobby its passage in the 1939 Session of the Legislature. Richard Ervin was the author of the legislation creating the Department of Public Safety and the Florida Sheriff's Bureau which paved the way for the creation of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Mr. Ervin contacted H. M. Fearnside, a state representative from Palatka and Putnam Counties. Fearnside agreed to introduce the legislation and work for its passage.

In 1939, the Florida Legislature created the State Department of Public Safety with two divisions; the Florida Highway Patrol and the Division of State Motor Vehicle Drivers Licenses, under the control of Governor Fred P. Cone and Chairman of the State Road Department, Arthur B. Hale.

The legislation authorized 60 officers to patrol the public highways and to enforce all State laws in effect, or hereinafter enacted, regulating and governing traffic, travel and public safety upon the public highways, and providing penalties for violations thereof, including the operation, regulation and licensing of motor vehicles and drivers thereof, and other vehicles thereon, with full police power to bear arms and to arrest persons violating said laws. The beginning salary was $1,500 per year for a highway patrolmen and each year thereafter the salary would be increased $120 a year until a maximum of $2,000 a year was reached.

Funds for the operation of the Department were to come from the sale of driver licenses. In order to get started, the Legislature transferred funds from the General Revenue to a State Driver License Fund for a period of 90 days to carry out the provision of the Act until the Department could repay the funds through the sale of driver licenses, which cost fifty cents for an operators license and one dollar for a chauffeurs license.

On September 28, 1939, the first meeting of the executive board of the new Department of Public Safety was held with the following members and officials in attendance: Honorable Fred P. Cone, Governor; Honorable Arthur B. Hale, Chairman of State Road Department; and Honorable D. W. Finely, State Motor Vehicle Commissioner. It was determined that sufficient funds had accrued from driver license fees to commence the work of setting up the Highway Patrol.

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W. F. Reid, First Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director

In September 1939, W. F. Reid was appointed Director of the Department of Public Safety by Governor Fred Cone and the Chairman of the State Road Department, Arthur B. Hale. He was directed to proceed with the work of organizing the Florida Highway Patrol. He was further directed to employ a Captain of the Highway Patrol to assist in the work. Mr. H. N. Kirkman was appointed Captain.

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Colonel H. Neil Kirkman, First Director of the Florida Highway Patrol

On October 1, 1939, H. Neil Kirkman was appointed as the first Commander of the Florida Highway Patrol due to his military background in the United States Army and his vast experience as Chief of Florida's State Road Department. Colonel H. Neil Kirkman was originally from Greensboro, North Carolina but considered Palatka, Florida his home. He entered the United States Army as a Private in 1917 and was discharged as a First Lieutenant. He was a charter member of the American Legion and served as State Commander of the American Legion during 1922 - 1923. He was engaged in the construction business for many years, particularly in building bridges such as the Memorial Bridge at Palatka and the Clearwater Causeway Bridge. Colonel Kirkman laid the groundwork for what has become the motto of the Florida Highway Patrol: "Service, Courtesy, Protection."

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The First Uniform

First uniform worn by Patrolman Reid Clifton. Select photo to enlarge.In 1939, the uniform color for the Florida Highway Patrol was forest green. The forest green whipcord blouse had orange piping around the epaulets and shirt pockets with silver buttons carrying the State seal. There was an orange and blue shoulder patch on the left shoulder, with silver collar ornaments - FHP on the left lapel and a wheel with wings attached to each side on the right lapel signifying traffic. There was a badge, chain and whistle. The shirt was forest green with orange piping around the epaulets and shirt pockets. Trousers were forest green with 1-1/2" black stripe. Shoes were black. In addition, each trooper was issued two pair of riding britches with 1-1/2" black stripe and a pair of black boots for winter dress.

First shoulder patch. Select photo to enlarge.The collar ornament design is a wing and wheel similar to the insignia that appears on the Ohio State Highway Patrol cars today. The original insignias had a broken spoke in the wheel which is the origin of the Broken Spoke Club.

A black Sam Browne belt, 3" wide, with handcuff case, cartridge clip, and a swivel or swing holster carrying a .38 caliber Colt revolver on the right side, with a shoulder strap to support the revolver and other equipment, completed the body uniform.

The first beige Stetson, or "Campaign", hats purchased for the Patrol in 1939, were $12.50 each. The hat, was the Stetson 3X Beaver, with a 1-1/2" orange hat band and a thin, 32" long, tan leather head strap to hold the hat in place. Before the turn of the century the Stetson 3X Beaver, as its name implies, was made from genuine beaver pelt; however, it is not known what type of fur, if any, our original Stetsons were made from.

Our uniforms and ornaments originated with the military. Our original Stetson hat first appeared on the scene during the civil war, was beige in color, rounded on top instead of creased down the middle, and was worn by the officers of the Union Forces. Confederate Forces also wore the same hat but gray in color.

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First Training School

first Patrol class with cars and motorcycles is shown upon graduation, November, 1939. Select photo to enlarge.In November, 1939, the first training school was held in Bradenton, Florida, with 40 recruits. The school was directed by Captain George Mingle of the Ohio Highway Patrol, a personal friend of Colonel H. Neil Kirkman. Thirty-two recruits graduated and became patrolmen. Twenty patrolmen were issued specially equipped Ford motor vehicles and twelve were assigned Model 84, Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

On December 12, 1939, "Fourteen Special Autos" arrived in Bradenton for patrol use. The black and cream, two-door Ford Coaches were equipped with sirens and bullet-proof windshields.

In the early years, there was no form of radio communication. Patrolmen would make regular stops at service stations or grocery stores along their routes to call in for assignments, reports of wrecks, and messages.

By the end of 1940, the first full year of operation, the Florida Highway Patrol had 59 officers. The State was divided into three divisions: Northern, Central and Southern. The commanding officer of each division was a Lieutenant. Since there were no district offices, all the records were kept in Tallahassee and each patrolman was responsible for mailing his daily reports to Tallahassee.

The first year of activity included: 154,829 hours of patrol time, 1,000 accidents investigated, 29,860 hours at the station, 127 motorists killed, 1,938,564 miles patrolled, 1,132 persons injured and 4,836 motorists arrested.

The 1941 Legislature increased the authorized strength of the Patrol to 190 officers and the pay increased to $150 per month. In the fall, the State Road Department supplied the Division Commanders an office in their district; the Northern District was Lake City, the Central District was Bartow and the Southern District was Ft. Lauderdale.

In 1998, Florida ranks fourth in population with an estimated 14,720,385 people. An influx of approximately 450 people per day or 160,200 people per year migrates to Florida according to the University of Florida's report on sustaining Florida's resources.

The Patrol has 1,580 sworn officers. Since the statistical data for 1998 will not be complete until late fall 1999, the following statistics are accurate for the Fiscal Year 1996/1997: Traffic crashes investigated 189,993, Florida Traffic Crash Reports 92,497, Short Forms 54,409, Non-Reportable 43,987, Traffic related fatalities 2,811, Traffic related injuries, 240,001, Assistance rendered, 332,198, 48-Hour Corrections Notices issued 154,321, Written Warnings issued 262,615, Child Restraint Warnings 3,475, Infractions 668,664, Misdemeanors 74,119, Felonies 4,868, Miles patrolled 35,482,204, and Total arrests 747,651.

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Duty Calls

In December, 1940, Commander H. Neil Kirkman was called back to duty in the United States Army when the threat of World War II warranted his particular talents. He served as a United States District Engineer in England, constructing bomber stations, fortresses, and warehouses. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for outstanding service and retired with the rank of full Colonel.

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Jesse J. Gilliam, DPS Director

In January 1941, Governor Spessard Holland appointed Jesse J. Gilliam Director of the State Department of Public Safety. In 1943, Director Gilliam was responsible for legislation requiring the Director of the Department of Public Safety to be appointed by the Governor and members of the Cabinet. Director Jesse J. Gilliam served until August 1, 1945.

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First Driver License Examination Program

First Driver Examiner's Class 1941New legislation provided that as of September, 1941, everyone applying for an original driver license would be required to pass a vision, road sign, road rules, and driving test, including those whose driving privilege had been suspended or revoked.

Prior to this, to obtain a driver license, all you had to do was simply fill out an application and pay the required fee to the county judge. After the enactment of this law, those persons who had not previously held a license and those renewing a license were required to pass an examination conducted by thirty patrolmen specifically trained for this purpose. The patrolmen administered the driving examinations and then worked their regularly assigned patrol duties after 5 p.m.

In 1948, Florida received national recognition for its driver license program from the National Safety Council. The award was presented to Colonel Kirkman at the Cabinet meeting. Governor Millard Caldwell and the Cabinet were most complementary

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World War II

Trooper Bryon Paul Tiller attended the second FHP recruit school in 1940. He was assigned 10 Sumter County. In 1942, Trooper Tiller took a leave of absence to serve in the United States Armed Services, World War II. He served honorably in the U.S. Navy and was killed on April 7, 1945 (his own birthday) during an aircraft attack on a Navy carrier in the South Pacific. He was the uncle to Trooper William B. (Blane) Tiller, Troop A - Crestview.When World War II erupted in Europe, many of our patrolmen enlisted to do their patriotic duty. Other patrolmen were called up for defense work. Because of the war, it was hard to get and keep patrol officers. The Patrol's sworn officers were down to 100 and were kept busy escorting military convoys, including gasoline tankers filled with fuel for military installations, and patrolling Florida's 1,197 statute miles of coastline looking for illegal aliens trying to slip ashore. The Patrol, working closely with the military police, was spread thin during these war years, but did not give in or give up.

In April 1942, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, aided by the Florida Highway Patrol, launched a series of raids on Florida's east coast. They entered 67 homes of German and Italian nationals, seized guns, ammunition, dynamite, caps, fuses, and radio receivers. Some of the persons captured were classified by the FBI as dangerous. Throughout the war, patrolmen aided in the search and apprehension of prisoners of war.

Supplies were extremely limited during the "War Years." When shoes issued by the Department got badly worn, they were repaired and returned to the patrolmen. There were no new shoes.

Gasoline was rationed and each patrolman was issued stamps which limited the amount of gasoline he could purchase. The only tires available were made of synthetic rubber and they would come apart at high speeds.

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The Patrol's Uniform

current shoulder patch.During Director Gilliam's administration, World War II was in progress and textile mills were using all green wool for military uniforms. Mr. Gilliam selected the army officers' pink material for the uniform trousers and britches. In 1943, the Patrol's uniform blouse was olive drab whipcord with silver buttons bearing the state seal, a patch on the left shoulder (the orange emblem with the word "Florida" spelled out), silver collar ornament "F.H.P." on the left lapel and the "Winged Wheel" ornament on the right, signifying traffic. A badge, chain, whistle, army pink trousers with a 1 inch black stripe from waist to hem, black riding britches, and one pair of black plain-toed riding boots completed the uniform. Instructions were to wear riding britches and boots on each Friday, Saturday and Sunday until the forest green uniforms were phased out. Also, part of the uniform was the graphite blue Stetson hat, Sam Browne 3" gun belt , plus handcuff and cartridge cases.

Changes to the uniform included a new holster, commonly known as the "cross draw," resting on the left hip. This type of holster was selected for the protection of the officer, because it is out-of-sight to persons under arrest.

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Radio Communication System

Patrolman T. A. Bass takes notes on a radio emergency call over his two-way radio set.The Florida Highway Patrol radio communications system began operating in 1943. Mr. Earl Burchard installed our communication system (Motorola) beginning in Bartow, headquarters for the Central Division, Captain H. C. Martin was the Troop Commander. Whenever possible, Colonel Jesse J. Gilliam wanted to employ handicapped personnel to serve as duty officers in the radio room.

Sergeant Chris Anderson at radio station WSTV located in the Jacksonville Highway Patrol Office, 1944.By the end of 1944, there were 13 stations statewide in operation with mobile units in all the patrol cars. Monitoring services with the larger police departments were provided. Communication was established with Georgia and Alabama by placing receivers in stations along the borders, which proved very beneficial for all three states.

This new radio communication system was put to the test, when a hurricane tore through Florida in October 1944, and passed with outstanding grades! The Florida Highway Patrol radio units provided the only means of communication for those areas devastated by the hurricane.

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Home from the War

On August 15, 1945, Colonel H. N. Kirkman returned home from the war and assumed his position as the Director of the State Department of Public Safety. The appointment was made unanimously by Governor Milliard Caldwell and the Cabinet. Captain I. Olin Hill, Executive Officer, was appointed Acting Director until Colonel Kirkman could be officially discharged from the Armed Forces on October 1, 1945.

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Boys State

LtoR backrow - Patrolmen Carlos Bullock, O.T. Cason, Floyd Crawford, Howard P. Gillette, Frank Eskridge and Wallace Evans. middlerow - Clyde Hayman, Charlie Monroe, Eddie Gong, Carl Beeler, Randolph Bentley. front row - Don Fuqua, Captain johnson, Mark Wheeler, Captain Loucks, Jim Hatch. This photo was taken in 1951 courtesy of Retired Trooper Wally Evans.What is Boys State? It is a introduction to a laboratory of practical political science. Boys State is, first a citizenship training program sponsored by the American Legion, Department of Florida, for the purpose of bringing to the youth of Florida an understanding of the fundamental principles of American government. It is, second, a lot fun for the boys who take part. When did Boys State begin? In 1945

Photos from 1951.

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Release of Public Information

In the Fall of 1946, Governor Millard Caldwell requested Colonel Kirkman provide copies of all the patrolmen's activities to him and the Cabinet at all future Executive Board meetings. The statistical data included number of accidents, number injured and killed, property damage, arrests, written warnings and any other pertinent information. In addition, Governor Caldwell suggested this same information be given to the news media for publication to the general public and be displayed at all the state and county fairs.

Patrolman C. W. Keith - 1945Colonel Kirkman appointed Captain J. Wallace Smith to assemble the statistical data. Sergeant Clay W. Keith was assigned to prepare the exhibits since he had been formerly employed by the Florida National Exhibits in Deland, Florida.

The first exhibit was at the Florida Citrus Exposition in Winter Haven, Florida, in February of 1947. Governor Caldwell, Colonel Kirkman, John Snively, Captain I. Olin Hill (Troop Commander of the Central Division), and Mr. Phil Lucy (Manager of the Exposition), visited the booth.

Sergeant Keith decorated the booths with orange and blue crepe paper, displayed large photographs of motor vehicle accidents and the major violations that caused traffic accidents, and showcased the various equipment the Patrol used at the time.

Governor Milliard Caldwell, Caption I. O. Hill, Captain T. Bass, Colonel H. Neil Kirkman and Mr. John Snively at the Florida Highway Patrol Display at the Citrus Exposition.The exhibits were an instant success with the public. Sergeant Keith found himself covering 15 county fairs as well as the annual state fair. Patrolman Bill Norris of Lakeland was assigned to the fair detail to assist Sergeant Keith.

The following comments from Governor Caldwell regarding his views on traffic safety were part of the exhibit:

"I have not hesitated to call upon the substantial citizens of this State when the real job has to be done. This - accident prevention - is probably the hardest single task which MUST be undertaken and in which we MUST succeed. The importance of this task is so obvious that it requires no emphasis from me. This is a war against a ruthless enemy - accident. There is no need of beating about the bush or dodging the issue. If the public wants to STOP, the inexcusable waste of human life - resulting from traffic accidents - it can be, to a great extent, STOPPED." (Taken from the minutes of the Cabinet meeting dated October 3, 1946.)

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One License Concept

In 1946, in a meeting with the Highway Patrolman who conducted driver license examinations, Sergeant C. W. Keith learned that the great majority of truck drivers who traveled out of the state had a driver license in each state they traveled through.

In 1947, Mr. Leo Foster, attorney for the Department prepared legislation on a "One License Concept." This concept became part of the driver license compact used by a great majority of the states. This law corrected much duplication in our driver records bureau.

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