Retired Lt. Colonel Joe R. Henderson, Jr., was recognized on Tuesday, August 13, 2002, by Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Cabinet members for his 40 years of law enforcement service to the State of Florida.
Lt. Colonel Henderson began his career as a Driver License Examiner in 1956, graduated from the Florida Highway Patrol Training Academy in 1957, and patrolled the roads of Wakulla, Gadsden, and Leon Counties for the next 6 years. Upon the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Trooper Henderson was assigned to the Florida Governor’s Mansion to protect Governor Farris Bryant, and subsequently served Governors Haydon Burns and Claude Kirk. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Governor’s Security Force. During his service to the Governor’s detail, Henderson studied law by correspondence and received a Bachelor of Laws degree from La Salle Extension University on March 17, 1967.
In 1968, Sergeant Henderson was assigned to the newly organized Motor Vehicle Inspection Program as its safety officer, and during the next 12 years served as a District Lieutenant in Troop E, Miami, Troop H, Tallahassee, Troop M, Ft. Lauderdale, as Commander of Troop M, and as Chief of the Motor Vehicle Inspection (MVI) program. During service in the MVI program, he was instrumental in the creation of Florida’s bus inspection program, which assured that children transported in private school buses meet the same standard as children transported in public school buses. In addition, he was instrumental in the creation of Florida’s motor vehicle noise control program.
From February 1, 1980, until December 31, 1983, Captain Henderson was Commander of Troop A, Panama City, and was commended for his involvement in the development of a female and minority recruiting program that was adopted by FHP General Headquarters. On January 1, 1984, Captain Henderson was promoted to Major and placed in command of Northern Troop operations which consisted of Troops A, B, D, G and H. He subsequently retired from the Florida Highway Patrol at the rank of Lt. Colonel on June 30, 1987.
Lt. Colonel Henderson re-entered state law enforcement in 1989 as Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the Florida Park Service (FPS), where he was charged with organizing FPS law enforcement officers into a statewide law enforcement organization with a command structure and supervision. Within the next 5 years, the Bureau of Florida Park Patrol (FPP) was created by the Florida Legislature and assigned to the Division of Law Enforcement in the newly created Department of Environmental Protection, with Lt. Colonel Henderson appointed as the Florida Park Patrol’s first Chief.
Under the leadership of Chief Henderson, the FPP started with 3 supervisors and two support positions for the entire state, and evolved into 5 districts with the necessary commanders and supervisors to function as an effective law enforcement organization, protecting the thousands of acres of valuable land that are Florida State Parks, and the millions of citizens who visit them.
Governor Bush and Cabinet members also recognized Lt. Colonel Henderson’s continuing service as the volunteer Historian of the Florida Highway Patrol and as a member of the Florida Highway Patrol Reserve.