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1960 to 1971

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

Colonel H. Neil Kirkman

Colonel Reid Clifton

Busting at the Seams

World War II spurred economic development in Florida. Because of its year-round mild climate, the state became a major training center for soldiers, sailors, and aviators of the United States and its allies. Highway and airport construction accelerated so that, by war's end, Florida had an up-to-date transportation network ready for use by residents and the visitors who seemed to arrive in an endless stream.

One of the most significant trends of the post war era was the steady population growth, resulting from large migrations to the state from within the United States and from countries throughout the western hemisphere, notably Cuba and Haiti.

By 1960, Troop E, headquartered in Miami, had grown so much it was necessary to take Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties and form Troop L headquartered in West Palm Beach. Broward County was added to Troop L in 1981.

In 1961, the Legislature increased the authorized strength of uniformed men to 600 but failed to provide funds for the additional troopers, thus the hiring and training of these men had to wait. However, the Legislature authorized the promotion of all Special Service Officers to the rank of sergeant. These officers included troopers assigned as driver license supervisors and troop safety officers. At the end of 1963, the Patrol had 566 officers.

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Credit Union

In 1961, Clara H. Adams (wife of Major Karl Adams) was contacted by Colonel Kirkman to implement a fiscal program for the department for handling revenue received from all sources since her background had been in the financial world for years. Clara accepted the position with the department in July of 1961.

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Additional Aircraft

In 1962, being aware of an increasing enforcement problem in the state due to the completion of the turnpike and numerous expressways throughout the state, the Department under the direction of Colonel Kirkman began studying the feasibility of using light aircraft to close the gap between the thinly scattered troopers in the state.

Soon the FHP initiated the use of aircraft for traffic law enforcement with two Piper aircraft. The efficiency of the two traffic aircraft was above expectation, and a third and then a fourth aircraft was added to the fleet.

The Flight Section of the FHP since its origin has lost three pilots in the line of duty. Trooper John E. Hagerty was killed March 18, 1970 when a Jet Fighter collided with his aircraft in mid-air.

On July 13, 1981, Trooper Merle J. Cook was killed when his aircraft crashed while participating in a manhunt in St. Jones County. Two observers, Corporal C. L. Tomlinson, and Trooper R. L. Pruitt were also killed in this crash.

Then on October 2, 1985, Sergeant John C. Baxter, Jr. was killed when his aircraft crashed in Manatee while participating in a man hunt for an armed felon.

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The Patrol was given a challenging task to perform in 1962, that of fingerprinting every state employee of Florida. A special crew was appointed to handle the job and they were required to travel to every county in the state to fingerprint over 40,000 employees.

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Future Patrol Opportunities

A letter dated February 21, 1964, was addressed to Colonel H. Neil Kirkman. The letter said an exact copy of the following text, "Traffic here will be directed by FHP" was placed in a capsule and enclosed inside of the Ranger IV Rocket and it is now on the moon's surface.

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Civil Rights Demonstration

In the early spring of 1964, civil rights demonstrations began in St. Augustine. Governor Bryant first ordered the Florida Highway Patrol to send troopers to assist local law enforcement agencies. Mobs were meeting in open conflict and shots were being fired into homes and automobiles. During 15 days of rioting, 306 persons were arrested and a large number of weapons were confiscated.

In 1964, Trooper Hank Dean was in the 25th Recruit Class and his duty station was Troop L in West Palm Beach. He attended the first homicide investigator's class and the first VASCAR instructor's class. He was also a counselor and instructor at the FHP Training Academy under the directorship of Captain Jay Hall, Captain B. J. Barnett and Captain W. D. Oliver.

Due to the death of his father and a family business obligation, Hank Dean had to resign from the FHP he loved. But that didn't stop Hank Dean from joining the FHP Auxiliary in 1975 and he is still actively involved. Today, he holds the rank of Major in Troop K's Auxiliary Unit. He resides in Deerfield Beach with his lovely wife, Charmie

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Seals on Patrol Car

In 1964, the wording 'State Trooper' began to show up on all Florida Highway Patrol cars on the doors and trunk. The word 'State' appeared above the seal and the word 'Trooper' appeared below the seal. Sergeant Tom Joyce, Public Information Officer, brought this information and samples back from the State of Tennessee after a meeting.

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Dade Drag Race

State troopers, assisted by sheriff's deputies, arrested 103 adults and youngsters in a raid on an organized drag race where the participants had blocked a state highway in 1965. They impounded 47 autos and arrested the participants and spectators, aged 13 to 35, on charges ranging from juvenile delinquency to reckless driving.

Two troopers had infiltrated the ranks of the dragsters for two months and were on the scene when the raid began. They said, "When the police cars arrived everyone tried to jump in a car and get away. Those who couldn't reach a car jumped into the water and sawgrass." Firearms, knives, clubs and a set of brass knuckles were confiscated when the arrests were made.

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Blue Lights on Patrol Cars

On July 1, 1965, Florida became one of the first states to use blue emergency lights on its official patrol cars. The use of blue lights was restricted to the Florida Highway Patrol and other police vehicles.

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First Auxiliary Member Killed

On September 8, 1965, Florida Highway Patrol Auxiliary Captain O. K. Bender was killed as he flagged traffic on the 36th Street Causeway in Miami.

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United States Congress

In 1966, the United States Congress passed the Federal Highway Safety Act. Public Safety Directors from each state were invited to Washington, D.C. to witness President Lyndon Johnson sign the legislation. Colonel H. Neil Kirkman attended the ceremony and returned to Florida with one of the fountain pens used to sign the legislation. Major Clay W. Keith had it framed and it's now on display at the Highway Patrol Academy.

This act mandated a number of activities to increase the safety of operating motor vehicles on the United States highways and made millions of dollars in federal grants available to individual states, including Florida, to administer safety programs.

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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

A new agency in the United States Department of Transportation was created to process those grants and to work with the states, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is better known as NHTSA.

Each state formed Governor's Highway Safety Councils to coordinate their requests to NHTSA for federal grants. NHTSA also assisted states in coordinating efforts to bring together diverse agencies having similar responsibilities.

Within Florida, the Divisions of Motor Vehicles, Driver Licenses and Financial Responsibility, and Florida Highway Patrol (which gave these divisions an enforcement arm to assist them in enforcing their responsibilities) had operational safety responsibilities, while the Division of Administrative Services provided administrative and data processing support.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) was formed and the Department of Public Safety was abolished. Never in traffic safety history was so much done to establish uniformity, to determine with what agency specific safety responsibilities belonged, and develop standard terminology. All states followed NHTSA's suggestions to help traffic safety administrators.

To begin some of these innovative concepts, Florida's Legislature, through impetus legislation and the prodding of Governor Haydon Burns and Governor Claude Kirk, passed a number of bills designed to improve highway safety during the 1966 - 1970 time frame. Some of these involved:

  • Motor vehicle inspection.
  • Implied consent.
  • Use of radar.
  • Controlled issuance of driver licensing.
  • Re-examination of all drivers once every four years.
  • Driver education prerequisite for obtaining a driver license.
  • Uniform traffic tickets and control of same.
  • Exchange of traffic convictions with other states.
  • The point system.
  • Color photo on driver licenses with a negative film file for law enforcement agencies to use in solving crimes.
  • Providing on-line data processing to all driver license officers, clerk of court offices, and the Florida Highway Patrol.
  • Additional personnel to pick-up driver licenses of those who had their driving privilege suspended or revoked.
  • Medical Advisory Board to evaluate driver infirmities.
  • A Traffic Court Review Committee (with a member of the Supreme Court) to act as liaison between the traffic courts and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Florida's new constitution of 1969 provided a new court system with all traffic cases now processed by county courts and many criminal traffic offenses decriminalized to civil penalties. Involved in this early reorganization in 1966 - 1971 were the following:

  • The Governor's Highway Safety Council assisted and helped agencies process their grants (members of the Florida
  • Highway Patrol assisted in this endeavor). Because of the number of grants, it became necessary for the Legislature to appropriate $200,000 to $300,000 to the Governor's Highway Safety Council to hire enough personnel to process all the grants.
  • Supreme Court Justice B. K. Roberts worked with the courts and Justice James Atkins was assigned to help the Patrol with the traffic courts. His assistant was Delphine Strickland.
  • Justice James Atkins worked with the Florida Highway Patrol on our programs until he retired.
  • NHTSA sent representatives to Florida; they copied all of our programs and sent copies to all of the other states.

The following programs in the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles were used as models for all states by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

  • Traffic Court System
  • Uniform Traffic Ticket System
  • Driver Education Program
  • Color Photograph System
  • Re-examination Program
  • Point System
  • Administrative Hearings in connection with the suspension and revocation of the driving privilege
  • Fraud Program in connection with color photographic driver license
  • Driver records on-line to clerk of courts
  • Motor vehicles on-line with the tax collectors
  • Accident Record System

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles' three operating divisions (Florida Highway Patrol, Driver Licenses, and Motor Vehicles) were supported by the Kirkman Data Center. The Kirkman Data Center was the largest in the Southeastern United States. This Department had the pulse of the State in its hands.

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Long Hours

For many years, troopers worked twelve-hour shifts, six days a week. On one occasion, for a period of nine months, they were cut to ten and then nine-hour shifts, but troopers still worked six days a week. Then Governor Haydon Burns and the Cabinet decided the Troopers would begin working a 40-hour week effective January 1, 1966.

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New Training Academy

In 1966, the Florida Highway Patrol celebrated the grand opening of the new Training Academy located in Tallahassee. The three-story Academy building cost over $700,000. Besides the sleeping quarters for the troopers and recruits in training; the building housed two classrooms, each designed for 60 students, an indoor firing range, a weight room, a recreation room, and a catered cafeteria facility that seats up to 60 people at a time.

The concourse holds very special meaning to those of us who have been honored to join the ranks of Florida's premier agency, known as the Florida Highway Patrol, and to proudly wear the uniform of Florida's "Finest." But we must never forget the pictures, banking an entire wall, of the ones who gave their lives in the line of duty.

The Academy was paid for by fees collected for the sale of driver records and accident reports. The Governor and Cabinet authorized Colonel Kirkman to use money from the "Trust Fund," which didn't cost the taxpayers one cent. The new Academy was a far cry from the old military wooden buildings purchased from the City of Tallahassee in 1955, which the Troopers had been using as sleeping quarters and classrooms.

Then in 1983, an additional building was added adjacent to the existing building, creating even more room. This allowed the academy to conduct in-service schools as well as recruit schools. The academy can house a total of 128 personnel and hold classroom instruction for as many as 175.

The Florida Highway Patrol Training Academy is the common denominator among the troops. Knowing that your fellow officer earned his or her right to wear the uniform the same as you, creates a unique bond between all troopers. This bond instills pride in oneself and in the organization they serve, while at the same time brings together a group of well-trained professionals to serve the public.

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"Spy in the Sky"

In 1967, Claude Kirk, Jr., became the first Republican Governor since 1870. He signed the "Spy in the Sky" bill authorizing the Florida Highway Patrol to use radar and aircraft in the apprehension of traffic law violators effective July 1, 1967.

The authority to use these devices had been struck down previously in the courts. Another measure, also signed by the Governor, was the bill providing broader arrest powers for the Troopers, including making an arrest for any violation of state law committed in their presence.

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Computerized Teletype System

A new computerized teletype system, capable of transmitting 100 words per minute and automatically switching messages from one terminal to another, was installed in 1968. The Florida Law Enforcement Communication System (FLECS) connected 35 Florida Highway Patrol stations, 23 sheriff's offices, the Beverage Department, the Bureau of Law Enforcement, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Division of Corrections.

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State Agencies Merged

During Governor Claude Kirk's term, Florida's voters revised the Florida Constitution in the November election and governmental reorganization took place on July 1, 1969. At the beginning of Governor Kirk's term, Florida had 125 state agencies. At the end of reorganization, Florida had 25. Many agencies were merged, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Public Safety which formed the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The new department consisted of four divisions; Florida Highway Patrol, Driver License, Motor Vehicles and Administrative Services.

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Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Colonel H. Neil Kirkman held the position of Director of Public Safety until August 15, 1969, when he was appointed as the first Executive Director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles by the Governor and Cabinet. Colonel Kirkman retired on February 11, 1970, his 78th birthday.

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A Dream Becomes Reality

Alphonso Lofton, a young Marine finishing out a five-year hitch with the United States Marine Corps, took one look at a Florida Highway Patrol trooper investigating a hit-and-run accident in 1966 and decided that's what he wanted to be when he got our of the Marine Corps. He was honorably discharged in August, 1968 having attained the rank of Sergeant. After his discharge, he attended Lake City Community College.

His dream became a reality on May 1, 1970, when Trooper Alfonso Lofton became the first African-American member of Florida's "Finest" and set the stage for many of the other great men and women to follow in his footsteps. He attended the 38th Recruit Class at the Florida Highway Patrol Training Academy in Tallahassee from January 10, 1971 through April 3, 1971. Upon graduation, he returned to Miami where he was assigned to Field Operations. On January 1, 1973, he was promoted to Traffic Homicide Investigator. On March 9, 1981, he was assigned as a Recruiter for Troop E.

Trooper Lofton had the distinction of being the first African-American Florida Highway Patrolman. In March, 1973, Trooper Lofton was appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee of the Department. His efforts to recruit more African-Americans into the ranks of the Florida Highway Patrol earned him recognition from the Patrol and from the community.

In recognition of his efforts, he received the Martin Luther King Brotherhood Award and was honored by the State of Florida. The Florida Commission of Human Relations also commended him for his outstanding service with the Florida Highway Patrol.

Trooper Alphonso Lofton succumbed to multiple sclerosis on February 25, 1984, at the age of thirty-nine. His distinguished career with the Florida Highway Patrol was cut short by this tragic illness. Trooper Alphonso Lofton's outstanding record of service to the citizens of the State of Florida exemplified character, honor and integrity. On August 19, 1988, the Troop E Headquarters Station was dedicated to the memory of Trooper Alphonso Lofton.

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First African-American Retires

On July 1, 1971, Joe Willie DeCoursey officially joined the Florida Highway Patrol. He reported to the FHP Training Academy on July 4, 1971 and returned to Fort Lauderdale upon graduation from the academy.

In 1973, Joe was promoted to Traffic Homicide Investigator and transferred to Troop E - Miami where he attended Biscayne University. Finally, in September 1979, Joe received his long awaited transfer home to Gainesville where he valiantly served the Patrol and the community of Gainesville until his retirement on July 31, 1996. Trooper Joe W. DeCoursey is the first African-American trooper to reach 25 years of service with the Florida Highway Patrol.

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