Group Title: Interview with Ret. Captain Russell B. Garris (March 7, 1989)
Title: Ret. Captain Russell B. Garris
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Title: Ret. Captain Russell B. Garris
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Roddenberry, James ( Interviewer )
Garris, Russell B. ( Interviewee )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: March 7, 1989
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Bibliographic ID: UF00007764
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Employed with FHP January 9, 1950

Interviewed by James Roddenberry

Date Interviewed March 7, 1989

Good morning! I am Jim Roddenberry and I'm in the Florida

Highway Patrol Headquarters which is located in the Neil Kirkman

Building in Tallahassee, Florida. Today's date is March 7, 1989,

and it's Tuesday. I have the pleasure of conducting an oral

interview history of a former troop commander, retired, and who

is today serving in the Patrol as a management review

specialist. This person is Captain Russell B. Garris. The

purpose of this interview is for the FHP Oral History Project in

conjunction with the Patrol's observance of it's 50th Year

Anniversary this year and in conjunction with the University of

Florida's Oral History Program.

JR: Captain Garris, we are just delighted that you'll take the

time today to participate in this program. I think that

your involvement that you have already had will certainly

bear out the significance of what is being accomplished

with this. We are going to start out the interview by

getting some background on you, back in your early days,

your boyhood days, your parents' names and bring you right

on up to date to where you are now. Let's start with

asking you when were you born?

RG: I was born in Daytona Beach in 1927 May the 22nd.

JR: In Daytona Beach, Florida?

RG: Yes

JR: And your parents' names?

RG: My mother's name was Evelyn and my father's name was Phil,


JR: Are they originally from the Daytona Beach area or where

did they come from?

RG: My father was from Southern Illinois and my mother was from

Southern Georgia.

JR: You have brothers and sisters?

RG: I have one half-sister that's in New Jersey at this time.

JR: And what is her name?

RG: Mary Belle McAlpine.

JR: Where did you spend your boyhood days?

RG: Actually, more or less, in Ormond Beach, Florida, which is

in connection with Daytona Beach.

JR: Did you go to school in that area?

RG: I went to elementary school in Ormond Beach, Florida, and

high school at Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach,


JR: Let me back up just a minute.


What was your Dad's

RG: At the time of my birth, he was a policeman in Daytona


JR: Did he serve there many years?

RG: Not too long, ah, he and my mother were divorced when I was

about three years old and I had a stepfather from the time

I was six years old.

JR: Is he alive today?

RG: Neither one of them.

at this time.

In fact, none of the three are alive

JR: All deceased?

RG: Yes.

JR: You went to elementary school where?

RG: In Ormond Beach at the Ormond Beach Elementary School on

the mainland side.

JR: And then from there, you went to high school?

RG: In Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, Florida.

JR: You graduated from there?

RG: Yes, and upon graduation, I went right into the United

States Navy and boot camp in Bainbridge, Maryland.

JR: How long were you in the Navy, Captain Garris?

RG: Well, actually, it was near the end of the war and I was

only in 13 months and then I was mustered out. I went in

in 1945 and came out in 1946.

JR: Did you serve overseas or were you in the states during

this time?

RG: No, I missed going overseas by one name on one list and I

went to Key West, Florida, and then from Key West to Green

Cove Springs and then I was mustered out at the

Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

JR: Okay sir. Following your discharge from the service, at

what age were you when you were discharged from the


RG: I went in when I was 18 and got out when I was 19.

JR: Okay sir, what did you do after you were discharged from

the service?

RG: I went to work for Ocala, in Ocala at the Marion Theater

for the Florida State Theaters. I was assistant manager at

the Marion Theater in Ocala.

JR: What year are we talking about, Captain Garris?

RG: 1946, latter part of "46.

JR: Okay, you worked for the theater for how long?

RG: Probably a year, then I went back to Daytona, rather Ormond

and worked for Elinor Village as a maintenance person in

the Elinor Village construction area. They had already

completed most of their construction, it was on the ocean

front in Ormond.

JR: Did you attend college?

RG: After that I went to Stetson University in DeLand for a

year and then I was married and I had to go out and go to

work, so I quit college.

JR: What were you majoring in while you were in college?

RG: I had thought, just business administration to start with.

JR: Alright, after you left college, where did you go from


RG: I think I got a little backwards, I went from college to

Ocala, then from Ocala back to Ormond, then from Ormond

then I went on the Highway Patrol when I was with the

Elinor Village Co.

JR: What age were you when you went on the Patrol?

RG: I was 23, so about two or three years that I worked, one

year at Ocala and about two years in Ormond.



JR: And you were -in Ormond Beach at the time you made

application with the Patrol?

RG: Yes.

JR: What possessed you to want to become a member of the

Florida Highway Patrol, Captain Garris?

RG: Well, actually, at an earlier age, about 12 years old, I

was a page in the Senate up here, my stepfather was a

Senator from Volusia County.

JR: What was his name?

RG: Hubert A. Price and I was in the Senate Chamber in 1939

when they passed the law for the Highway Patrol as it is

today and it was on my mind at the time plus my father was

a policeman and my grandfather was a policeman, Chief of

Police in Ormond Beach for about 22 years, and my

stepfather was the mayor of Ormond Beach. So police work

more or less came along with the family and I became

interested in it when I was about 22 or so and applied to

the Highway Patrol.

JR: Your family had- a background in law enforcement and this

left an apparent impression upon you and so you then

applied for the Highway Patrol and you were living at

Ormond Beach at that time, am I correct?

RG: Yes.

JR: To whom did you submit your application to, Captain Garris?

RG: It was submitted by mail to Tallahassee and I had letters

from, the Secretary of State at the time was Bob Gray, and

Nathan Mayo, the Secretary of Agriculture, and I believe

from Senator Beil, I have forgotten what county he was from

at that time. So it was some few months, some six months

or so before I ever heard about it and I was requested to

report to Eglin Field in January, of course, we took tests

first in Tallahassee, here at the old armory on Monroe

Street, then we reported to Eglin Field on January 9, 1950.

JR: For recruit training?

RG: For recruit training.

JR: How long was the class scheduled for?

RG: Six weeks.

JR: How many were in- that class, Captain Garris?

RG: Best I can remember, there was about 33, if I'm not

mistaken, around 33.

JR: Is there anyone on the Patrol today who attended that class

that you graduated from?

RG: No, the only two people that I know of that are still

employed with the Department in this building or on the

Patrol anywhere in the state is Jim Cox, who is Director of

the Driver License Division and myself. We started at the

same time in the 7th Patrol School in January 1950.

JR: Tell me a little about the preliminary examinations as you

recall them back in, apparently it was probably 1949 when

you made application or you took the test to get into the

Patrol. What kind of preliminaries were required at that

time as you recall?

RG: Well, we had the regular aptitude test that they were

taking at that particular time, they had a spelling test

and had some particular questions about the geography of

the state and a physical and I remember at that particular

time you had to be about 5 ft. 10 in. and 160 pounds if I'm

not mistaken. We had a couple of people who later came on

the Patrol that were turned down at that particular time,

one of them was Ray Grimes, he was under heighth and they

didn't allow him to become a trooper at that time. Ah, and

our test as I mentioned before was given in the old armory

building on North Monroe Street in Tallahassee.

JR: Took a physical- examination at the same time you took the

written examination?

RG: Yes, later that afternoon, we took the written test in the

morning and the physical in the afternoon.

JR: Okay, how long after you took the tests, did you hear that

you were accepted in the Patrol, was there an interval of

time of any significance or was it shortly thereafter?

RG: I'm not sure now, but it was probably about two months,

probably it was in November of "49, I imagine and we were

requested to report in January of "50 to Eglin Air Force

which is located in Northwest Florida.

JR: Which is located in Northwest Florida or actually Okaloosa

County, right close to Fort Walton Beach?

RG: Yes.

JR: What was your salary that you were informed you would be

drawing, the difference in the salary and the recruit

class, subject to graduation or was it all one salary? Do

you recall?

RG: I don't recall exactly, $225.00 per month when we got out

of school and it probably was $50.00 less than that, I

imagine, it was about probably $175.00 as recruits,

something like that. But it was $225.00 after we got out

of Patrol school.

JR: What was some of the subjects that were taught during the

school, Captain Garris?

RG: Law and first aid and of course, we had to march quite a

bit too and practical pistol course and most of those type

things. During that school Lt. Hall at that time, if I'm

not mistaken he was a lieutenant then in charge of the

class, and Jimmy Dickens was a sergeant at that time who

later was one of our pilots, and during that school, they

were going to show recruits how to disarm each other if

someone had a revolver on you and they had tried it with an

unloaded revolver in their quarters and Captain, excuse me,

Lt. Hall loaded up his revolver and they were going to

leave the room to meet us in class and they tried it one

more time and forgot the gun was loaded and shot Lt. Jimmy

Dickens through the side. And that was during that school.

JR: Was it serious?

RG: It was not serious, he was in the hospital for a few days,

then came back to us. Just barely grazed his side.

JR: I would suspect that some real tighter gun controls was

implemented after that.

RG: After that....

JR: That's great. Was there anyone else attending this class

other than FHP members?

RG: We had some service personnel, Air Force and I believe

Navy, too, that attended. If I think I'm not mistaken,

there were five or six others that went through the-whole

school with us.

JR: Upon your graduation, where were you assigned, Captain


RG: I think we had about five days off and then we were to

report to Troop Headquarters in Miami to be assigned to

Moore Haven. I reported

JR: Was the Troop Headquarters for Moore Haven?

RG: There was a southern division at that time.

JR: How many divisions, Captain Garris, did they have


RG: I believe they- had the western, northern, southern and

central divisions at that particular time.

JR: Four divisions?

RG: Four divisions....

JR: With Miami being the headquarters for the Southern


RG: It went all the way up to Vero Beach I believe and all away

across to south of Sarasota.

JR: Alright sir, to whom did you report to?

RG: Clifton was the captain at that time in Miami, I reported

to him.

JR: What was his rank?

RG: He was a captain.

JR: And he subsequently became

RG: The Director of the Highway Patrol.

JR: The Highway Patrol in later years. How many troopers were

on the Highway Patrol in 1950, do you recall the number?

RG: Well, we went by tag numbers at that time on the radio for

I.D. numbers and if I'm not mistaken we went by tag numbers

til January 1952 and at that time, we started with

seniority numbers and I believe there was 195 people in

1952. And my first number was 133.

JR: That was the tag number of your car?

RG: No the tag number of my car was 169.

was 133.

JR: Which would have

alphabetically too?

My first ID number

been by seniority and probably

RG: That's right. So probably in 1950 there was somewhere

around oh probably 140 people on the Patrol I imagine in


JR: Do you recall how many, about how many patrol stations we

had statewide, Captain Garris?

RG: Considerably less than we have now but if I'm not mistaken,

we probably had about 25 somewhere along in there.

JR: Who was Director of the Highway Patrol?

RG: Colonel Kirkman was the director at that time.

JR: What was his initials?

RG: Colonel H. N. Kirkman.

JR: And where was the headquarters located in the 1950's or

when yo'E came on the Patrol?

RG: It was in the basement or bottom floor of the Martin

Building uptown Tallahassee.

JR: Do you recall who the staff consisted of?

RG: Major Jay Wallace Smith, now deceased, was there, if I'm

not mistaken, Captain Red Taylor, Clinton Taylor was there,

JR: Has he since retired and still alive?

RG: Yes, and lives in Delray Beach. And Captain Hall, of

course, was up here at the particular time, Colonel

Kirkman, Captain Hall, Captain Taylor, and I believe that

probably Major Adams was up here at that time too.

JR: Upon reporting to Miami to Captain Clifton, were you issued

uniforms at that time or were you issued uniforms at the

time you were in the school?

RG: We were issued uniforms when we left the school, a minimum

amount, probably five I imagine, something like that and I

was issued a car in Miami. I had driven my own car to

Miami and I was issued a "49 Ford in Miami and Patrolman H.

K. Jones was there and he was to report to Fort Myers and I

was to report to Fort Myers also for recruit training on

the road recruit training. So he drove the patrol car that

was issued to me to Fort Myers and I drove my personal car

and we broke in with another older trooper, two of us, two

different troopers, we alternated with each other in Fort

Myers for thirty days, then we were assigned to our

territory, which would have been Moore Haven for me and

LaBelle for him.

JR: Were you given a training time after you reported to the

troop before you actually were let to be on your own?

RG: Yes, I broke in with Albert Miller, a trooper that was

stationed in Fort Myers at that particular time and some

part of the time, with Sergeant Jerry Berkhart who was

there at the time in Fort Myers, and Captain Mack G. Britt,

who was then a lieutenant, was the one in charge of the

Fort Myers District.

JR: How was your car equipped, Captain Garris?

RG: Well, the "49 Ford that I had, which was FHP-169, had one

of the old antennas, didn't have a spring on it, just had

solid connections into the side of the trunk and also the

top and it was one of the old time antennas and it had a

radio and a siren up top with a front red light, no back

red light and it was a normal "49 Ford, it was not any

special engine or anything and it probably had at the time

that I got it, I imagine 40 some thousand miles on it.

JR: You said the red light was on the front, did you have a red

light anywhere on the rear of the vehicle?

RG: We had incorporated our tail lights with blinkers and they

would serve as the back red light. Now the siren up top

had a bell and there was a light in the middle of that bell

that served as a red light.

JR: What was your communications at that time?

RG: At that time, they had already introduced the second

frequency, we had one and two frequencies on that low band


JR: Do you remember the make of the radio that was used at that


RG: First of all it-was RCA, I'm sorry, it was Motorola, later

it was RCA. The Motorola had a dynamometer in the back,

whenever you keyed the back, you would hear that

dynamometer start up.

JR: Whine would pick up on it?

RG: And then probably about, I lose recollection of it now, it

was probably a year, year and a half later they went to a

little RCA radio.

JR: What county is Moore Haven in, Captain Garris?

RG: In Glades County.

JR: How many troopers were stationed there in 1950?

RG: Just myself, I worked all of Glades County and half of

Hendry County including Clewiston and Hayward Jones worked

the other side of Hendry County and LaBelle and north part

of Collier County which was Immokalee.

JR: I believe you said you worked out of the Fort Myers


RG: Fort Myers was our district headquarters but Pahokee radio

station was the easiest one to reach on the radio and that

was the one we talked to, or rather I talked to most of the


JR: Who was the supervisor in charge of the Fort Myers Station?

RG: At that time, it was Lieutenant Mack G. Britt and under him

was Sergeant Jerry Berkhart, they had no corporal.

JR: What about the Pahokee Station?

RG: Pahokee Station was in another district out of Pahokee

District in West Palm Beach District. There was a corporal

over there, I have forgotten his name now but he had a

sister that lived in Moore Haven, Brenson, Ward Brenson was

the corporal in Pahokee at that time but he was not over

the area that I was in.

JR: Describe your uniforms, Captain Garris.

RG: In the summertime, we had to wear the old examiner type, or

bus driver type hats

JR: It had a bill to it?

RG: Yes....we had already gone to the cotton shirt at that

time, long sleeve, but we had to wear a tie and a hat in

the car and outside the car. In the wintertime, we had the

Stetson and the wool shirt.

JR: What about your gun belt?

RG: The gun belt was leather, it was not plastic like they have

now. We had to polish those along with your shoes which

they were not plastic at that time they were Corfam leather

and the belt had to be polished and you had to do that

almost daily and you had to make sure you got it off the

edge, if you didn't it would get on your pants and shirt.

JR: What else did you carry on the belt?

RG: Well, we had, of course, a bullet pouch and a handcuff case

and I'm lefthanded, so I had a holster on the left side

like everyone else with the butt forward and I had to pull

the gun out backwards and we never changed that the whole

time that I was on the Patrol.

JR: What was the weapon that was issued to you, Captain Garris?

RG: A .38 regular, regular .38 special.

JR: Did you have to qualify with this weapon at the time you

graduated from the Patrol school, do you recall?

RG: Yes, we did.

JR: Did you have pistol shoots or pistol practice at

RG: Periodically after we got out, yes we did, probably, I have

forgotten the time, probably about every three months,

something like that and we would go to Fort Myers for it

from wherever we were stationed. Back in Patrol school,

when we had practice and we were learning about revolvers

and qualifying, Jim Cox was next to me and he shot my

target because he couldn't hit his so we went down there to

count and I had about eight more holes than I should have

had, (laughing).

JR: How long were you stationed in Moore Haven?

RG: I was in Moore Haven from about April of, April or May of

"50 until February 1st of "51, I went to Sebring.

JR: Approximately a' year or so, or a little over a year

RG: Little over a year.

JR: Then to Sebring, that's in Highlands County, is that not


RG: Yes, Johnny Hicks who was later a major on the Highway

Patrol, was stationed in Avon Park and I was stationed in

Sebring and he had stayed in the Marine Reserves, he was in

the service during the second world war in the Marines and

he had to go back in the service, so they wanted somebody

in that particular county and he shortly left after I came

there...stayed gone in the service for about three or four

months and then he came back to Avon Park and there were

two of us in that county. So there had been someone else

in Sebring prior to that and if I'm not mistaken, I believe

it was Howard Gracey who was later a lieutenant and now

deceased but it had been vacant for awhile when I took his

place in Sebring and Johnny Hicks was in Avon Park.

JR: What were your activities then, Captain Garris, as far as

the number of arrests, written warnings, do you recall

about how it ran on a monthly basis?

RG: Well, actually they had a list that they used to send out

statewide, there were not too many troopers then to show

what everybody did all over the state and usually in

Sebring, and in Highlands County and Avon Park, Johnny

Hicks and myself were probably 4th or 5th in the state, out

of everybody. There were several other troopers that were

usually higher than that and in more densely populated

areas. If I'm not mistaken, a good month at that

particular time, would have been probably about 40 cases or

less, somewhere in the 30's or 40's, and probably about the

same for warnings and cards, you would at least get a

hundred or so.

JR: What were the -cases primarily made, what was the most

prevalent violations?

RG: There were a number for DUI, for drunk driving, but the

biggest portion of them were probably of speeding.

JR: You were stationed in Sebring now for how long?

RG: For three years, then I went to Fort Myers in about

September 1953.

JR: To Fort Myers and was the commanding officer still Mack


RG: No, during that time there had been a change and Mack Britt

made captain temporarily went to Miami, I'm sorry, stayed

in Fort Myers and then went to Lakeland and at that

particular time, during the time I was in Sebring, Simmons

was made a lieutenant or transferred over, he was a

lieutenant in Pahokee, he was transferred to Fort Myers.

JR: What was his initials?

RG: H. Lee Simmons, Hardy Lee Simmons.

JR: And he in later years became the

RG: The lieutenant colonel or deputy director for the Highway


JR: And he is retired today?

RG: Yes, living in Tallahassee. In the meantime, Sergeant Jerry

Berkhart had been transferred to Fort Myers and later

resigned and William Kaufman was the sergeant then in Fort

Myers at that time before I left Sebring.

JR: And he was subsequently

RG: He was subsequently a major on the Highway Patrol and then

laterally moved over as a Director of Administrative

Services Division and is now retired and lives in


JR: Administrative Services Division in the Department?

RG: In the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

JR: He is alive today and currently living in Tallahassee?

RG: In Tallahassee.

JR: Okay, Captain Garris, how long were you in Fort Myers now?

'RG: I was there about "53 through early "55 when I went to


JR: When you arrived in Orlando, who was, was Orlando the troop

headquarters or were you still in the regions or the

districts or do you recall the configuration of the state

that we are talking about some five years later?

RG: Okay, if I'm not mistaken, I think they had been changed to

troops at that particular time and that was Troop D and the

troop commander was Clyde Carlan in Orlando and his troops

included, all of -Melbourne, down to Kissimmee and all the

way up to Bunnell and Flagler County and across to

including Lake County and down. Probably about 13 counties

on that.

JR: The troop commander carried the rank of what?

RG: Was a captain.

JR: And Captain Carlan is, where is he today?

RG: He has since retired as a captain and lives in Panama City

and is still living.

JR: How many troopers now since you were stationed in the

Orlando area, let's just say Orange County, Captain Garris,

do you recall?

RG: In Orange County in 1955 and early "56, there were five not

counting supervisors, there were five.

JR: For the entire county?

RG: For the entire county.

JR: And there was a troop commander and were the other


RG: The best I can remember at that particular time and I don't

know particularly why, was Captain Carlan and there was a

First Sergeant Brown, I have forgotten Brown's first name.

JR: Was it Elmer?

RG: No, it was not Elmer, Elmer was stationed here in

Tallahassee one of the times but the other one was Collier


JR: Collier Brown?

RG: Collier Brown was the first sergeant there, we didn't have

a lieutenant at the time. I don't know why or why that

occurred, but that's the way it was.

JR: Were you working six days a week, Captain Garris, during

those years?

RG: Yes, from the start til probably way up in the sixties, I

guess, we worked five days, excuse me, six days a week and

on Saturday, everybody had to work on Saturday and it was

sixteen hours on Saturday and twelve hours on a normal day.

JR: What about on holidays?

RG: On holidays, you had to work too whether it was your days

off or not. You had to work and most of the time, on

holidays, there was twelve or sometimes according to how

serious the holiday was, like Christmas, it would probably

be sixteen hours.

JR: Were you on call even though you were off duty?

RG: Yes.

JR: Did you carry your patrol car home with you or were you

required to leave it at the station?

RG: No, from the time that I came on the Patrol til I retired,

we always carried the patrol car home.

JR: Kept the same patrol car?

RG: Yes.

JR: What was the makeup of the patrol cars that you had, let's

just say when you went to Orlando in 1955. Do you recall

what the Patrol was buying?

RG: Most of the time, during that particular early part of the

years they were Fords. When I went to Orlando I had a "53

Ford that came with me. In otherwords, at that particular

time when you were transferred, you took your car with you

and I had a "53 and later I got a "55 vehicle in Orlando.

When I started though, I had a "49 and I kept it for a

short time and got a "51 and I turned that car over in

Sebring, chasing another person and it was rainy and on the

southend of Highlands County and we didn't have safety

belts or seat belts at that particular time, and the car

that I was chasing for speeding got by an intersection and

an elderly gentleman ran the stop sign at that intersection

and pulled out in front of me and I ran off the road to

keep from hitting him, turned over and was thrown out of

the car. So I demolished that car and was later issued a

"50 and from that I carried that, was one of the best cars

I ever had, a "50 Ford.

JR: Were you injured as a result of the accident?

RG: Somewhat, I more or less tore my pants off and a lady came

running across from the one service station at that place

and asked what did I need, could she help me and I said,

just bring me a pair of britches. (laughing)

JR: Okay, how long were you in Orlando, Captain Garris?

RG: I was in Orlando '55 and part of "56 and went to Melbourne.

JR: Did we have a patrol station in Melbourne?

RG: Yes, we did and we had one for quite some time before that,

I don't know really when that one started, but it may have

been there all along, it probably was before 1950.

JR: And Orlando was still the troop headquarters?

RG: It was still the troop headquarters and Melbourne was the

district headquarters and Hope Carlan a brother of the

captain was the sergeant in Melbourne at that time.

JR: How many troopers in the Melbourne area, what counties did

the Melbourne area cover?


RG: Brevard County .all the way up through Titusville, and if

I'm not mistaken, there was Hope Carlan and myself in

Melbourne, and there was Maxwell

JR: Grady, was it Grady Maxwell?

RG: No, I'm sorry, the one that was with you in Records, what

was his name?

JR: Peacock?

RG: Peacock, I'm sorry, Peacock was in Titusville and one other

trooper with him. If I'm not mistaken, I think there was

only four of us.

JR: That was Sergeant W. S. Peacock, William S. Peacock?

RG: Yes, he was a trooper at that time.

JR: And he has since retired?

RG: Retired.

JR: Okay, was there anything that was going on in the Highway

Patrol during those years, now and we are talking about say

from 1950 to 1955 to "56, was there any drastic change in

the Patrol, Captain Garris, that you recall?

RG: Well, we had a couple of very substantial raises in

salaries at that time. I think we had one that went, a

$50.00 raise, one from $225.00 to $250.00, excuse me

$350.00 and they were adding men along at each particular

legislature, they increased the force and of course, along

with that we had some increased supervisory positions.

JR: And how long were you in Melbourne?

RG: I was in Melbourne a year and then I went to the Turnpike

January 20, 1957, when the Turnpike opened, about five days

before it opened, and was in Troop K at that particular


JR: So you were one of the first troopers that was ever

assigned to the Turnpike?

RG: Yes.

JR: Am I correct in that?

RG: Yes.

JR: How many troopers or what was the length of the Turnpike,

Captain Garris?

RG: One hundred eight and two tenths miles if I'm not mistaken

from the first bobtail part of it from Fort Pierce down to


JR: And how many troopers were assigned to that?

RG: Best I can remember, I think it was around 33 including the

captain and the supervisors and everybody.

JR: And where was the troop headquarters?

RG: Troop headquarters, when it started off was in, the

Turnpike office in Fort Lauderdale, later it was in West

Palm Beach when it was completed construction. It was

first in Fort Lauderdale.

JR:. And who was the troop commander?

RG: Captain Clinton (C.E.) Taylor.

JR: How long did you stay on the Turnpike, Captain Garris?

RG: I was there one year and went to Lake County and when I

came to the Turnpike Captain Taylor was the troop

commander, Lt. Randall was the lieutenant and Kaufman again

was the first sergeant on the Turnpike. Later when Randall

went back to Palatka, was transferred to Palatka, Kaufman

made lieutenant, he was the lieutenant on the Turnpike, and

I went from there in 1958 in January to Lake County, to


JR: And who was stationed in Lake County with you?

RG: Lake County, there was, Hamp Spears was in Tavares with me,

lived about a half of mile from where I lived and in

Leesburg, there was Gabe Neely, later deceased, and Tom

Sigman, who is now a Captain (Major) in Palatka and in

Clermont, the south end of the county, there was Captain

Bull, excuse me, Major Bull who is now the troop commander

of Troop H, was a trooper in Clermont and I think that was

all. If I'm not mistaken, there was five of us.

JR: What is Major Spears, what is his status today?

RG: Major Spears is retired but he was an inspector with the

Highway Patrol which carried the rank of a major and he is

now retired and lives in West Florida.

JR: How long were you in Lake County?

RG: Well, I was in Lake County, "58, "59 and about April of "60

and I was promoted to corporal and sent to Marathon in the

Florida Keys.

JR: That's as far south as you can just about....

RG: Key West is the only place that is further, it is fifty

miles further.

JR: Now what year was this, Captain Garris, that you went to


RG: I went to Marathon about April of 1960.

JR: And you were still a trooper at that time?

RG: Yes,

JR: And you had ten years under you on the Patrol and who was

stationed in Marathon, was there a station in Marathon?

RG: There was a station in Marathon, no station at that time in

Key West. Just one in Marathon and that was the whole

county of Monroe County and I was the supervisor for that

particular county under a supervisor out of Miami who was a


JR: You said you were the supervisor for that county?

RG: Yes.

JR: Were you promoted or was this

RG: No, I went there as a corporal and I was the acting

district sergeant you might say, but I was a corporal at

that particular time.

JR: So that was your"first promotion?

RG: Yes.

JR: You went to Marathon and Monroe County was a part of what


RG: Of Troop E and the headquarters was in Miami and the

counties in that troop were Broward, Dade and Monroe


JR: And do you recall the troop commander at that time?

RG: The troop commander at that time was Captain Duggar,

Captain E. D. Duggar. The lieutenant was W. A. Stevens,

and Johnny Hicks was a first sergeant there at that

particular time.

JR: How many troopers were assigned to Monroe County?

RG: The best I remember, there was one trooper with me in

Marathon, there was one trooper to start with on the north

end and one in Key West.

JR: Was your station communications network on duty 24 hours a

day Captain Garris?

RG: No, we signed off at midnight and locked the station up and

the operator slept in the station in a bunk that we had

there after midnight until, I believe the station came on

the air at 7 a.m. in the morning, if I'm not mistaken.

JR: And you served as a supervisor for the Marathon Station for

how long?

RG: I was there "60, "61 until about October of "62 when I made

sergeant and went to Miami. While I was in Marathon on the

north end we had Charlie Matthews who was a trooper now

retired, we had Jimmy Wright who is a major in Panama City

at this time and on the south end was Jack Carmody, who is

the Deputy Director with the Department at this time.

JR: Were there any significant changes in any of the procedures

or the uniforms or the cars that you can recall up until

from actually we said earlier from "55 up to 1955 and say

from "55 until 1960, anything of any significance that you


RG: Well the radio equipment improved, if I'm not mistaken, it

was still RCA but they improved it somewhat. They had

gotten better automobiles, the engines were a little bit

better and they changed the sirens to where it was more

streamlined, better sirens, it had a light in the front and

no bell and a light in the rear. Some of the older sirens

were equipped with rear lights before they changed them

though and we went to an automatic transmission the latter

part of "56 I think it was. They were part, Fords were

part straight shift in "56 and the latter part were


JR: Did you have power steering and power brakes, Captain


RG: We didn't have those until probably, I think they started

putting on those in "54, "55, somewhere along there, I'm

not certain about the time. We had air conditioners in

1955, I'm sorry, "65, it was all the way up to there before

we got air conditioners.

JR: How about a commercial radio, were you allowed to have one

of those at that time or was that

RG: No, we were not allowed to have commercial radios for a

long time and a lot of people had little portables that

they shouldn't had that they used up on the dashboard or

other places where they would receive commercial stations

and I don't really remember when they put the commercial

radios in. They probably let you put them in at your own

expense before we ever bought them. I really don't remember

what year. Do you recall?

JR: I think the safety officers were allowed, I think they

bought them or purchased them for the safety officers in


RG: Along about the same time as the air conditioners.

JR: I think the troop commander was allowed to have one.

RG: Yes,

JR: Alright, Captain Garris, we got you in Miami in October of

1962 and you had been promoted to Sergeant. How many

troopers were assigned to the Miami area and what area of

Dade County was the Patrol responsible for?

RG: Well, we were responsible for all the expressway system and

most of the state roads, the Tamiami Trail, U.S. #1 South

and the expressway system in and outside the city of Dade

County. At that particular time, we had a lieutenant and

two sergeants in the field and there was another sergeant

there with me who was Howard Gracey, who is now deceased,

and we had a split shift. Probably on each shift, we had,

now this would just be a guess, but it was probably around

20, 22 or 23 persons per shift.

JR: So you had to say 40 or some 40 or 50 uniformed personnel

assigned to

RG: It was closer to the high 30's or low 40's, if I'm not


JR: I believe you said earlier that Monroe County and Broward

County were part of

RG: Were part of that group. Monroe was a subdistrict you might

say out of the Dade and Monroe County District and

Lauderdale or Broward County was another district within

that troop.

JR: And the Director of the Patrol was at that time?

RG: At that time, it was still H. N. Kirkman.

JR: Do you recall, Captain Garris, how many troops that we had

statewide at this time or did the troop configuration.....

RG: We had a Weights Troop too at that particular time that

took care of the weighing of the trucks on the highway all

over the state and if I'm not mistaken, Troop M had not

been instituted at that time, which was later an inspection


JR: Motor Vehicle Inspection?

RG: Motor Vehicle Inspection, it was not in existence until

later on. We had Troop A in North Florida, Troop B in Lake

City and C had been moved from Bartow to Lakeland, if I'm

not mistaken, Lakeland was the troop headquarters, started

off as Bartow....

JR: That's interesting. Now do you recall what year this was,

Captain Garris?

RG: That it went from Bartow to Lakeland?

JR: Yes sir.

RG: Probably after I left Sebring. It was some time probably

in "53 or "54, "53 probably because that's whenever the

district commander that was in Fort Myers went there as a


JR: got troop C and D was still in Orlando.

RG: Orlando and F, if I'm not mistaken, was formed about that

time, Troop F. Troop F, at that particular time, before it

was formed, was part of the Southern Division.

JR: Okay, what was the troop headquarters for F?

RG: It started off,-before it was a troop headquarters, it was

within the Southern Division and the station was in

Sarasota. Then later when they built one, they moved it to

Bradenton, that's when it became Troop F and Troop F


JR: Alright sir.

RG: It went from Lakeland then back to Troop F headquarters in


JR: Alright sir, Troop G?

RG: Troop G was, it was, at that particular time, to start

with, I think it was part of Troop B, and then it was split

off and made Troop G.

JR: And the troop headquarters was in Palatka?

RG: Palatka.

JR: Of course, Troop H

RG: Troop H was formulated along at the same time as A and B

were, and that headquarters in Tallahassee and several

counties around there.

JR: And then you had"K which was the

RG: Turnpike, whenever it went into existence in "57 is when K

started as the Turnpike Troop only for that one particular


JR: And the Weights Troop was what letter designation?

RG: I think it was I, if I'm not mistaken, it was all over the


JR: What was their primary responsibilities, Captain Garris?

RG: For overweight trucks and weight stations around the state

and the poor damage of the highway that they were complying

with the weight laws for the state.

JR; Was it all over, covered the entire state?

RG: All over the state.

JR: And it's headquarters was where?

RG: Orlando. In the same place that Troop D was.

JR: Alright sir. How long, you were sergeant in Miami. Am I


1RG: Yes.

JR: And you were there for how long?

RG: For a couple of years and I transferred closer to home as a

sergeant in Jacksonville in 1964 about April.

JR: You were sergeant in Jacksonville?

RG: Jacksonville over Nassau County and Duval County under

Lieutenant, if I'm not mistaken, I'll have to think of his


JR: What year was this Captain Garris?

RG: 1964.

JR: Captain Garris, we have gotten you to Duval County and give

me the year that you went there again.

RG: I went there probably in April of "64.

JR: And who was the officer in charge?

RG: Garland Stafford was the lieutenant and the captain was

Prater out of Palatka.

JR: How many troopers were assigned to Duval County?

RG: They increased a little bit while I was there but if I'm

not mistaken, it was probably around 28 and it went up to

around 33 or so before I left and of course, we had three

different shifts and we had approximately probably five or

six people and a corporal.

JR: Was the station located then where it is today?

RG: No, it was in west of Jacksonville right off of Interstate

10, off of old U.S. 90 was where it was in Marietta, in the

little town that they call Marietta just west of


JR: Had Jacksonville consolidated at that time?

RG: No, it was later on, probably after I left there, it was

after "67 if I'm not mistaken, sometime after that.

JR: Were you the only sergeant, Captain Garris?

RG: Yes, I was the only sergeant there and we had a couple of

corporals with me.

JR: Was your station on 24-hour duty then or was it still off

at midnight?

RG: No, it was on 24-hour duty at that time.

JR: And the Jacksonville station or that district covered just

Duval County or did it encompass other counties.

RG: It encompassed Duval and Nassau County.

JR: How many troopers were assigned to Nassau County?

RG: There was a corporal and probably five other troopers or

four other troopers if I'm not mistaken. Corporal (unk)

Amason was the corporal up in Nassau County.

JR: What was his first name, do you recall?

RG: I have forgotten his name.

JR: Was it Victor?

RG: Vic Amason, I believe, V.C. Amason.....

JR: Alright sir, did anything of any significance occur during

your tenure of duty in Duval County that you recall or any

major change in the Patrol policies or significance in

uniforms or patrol cars?

RG: Well, at that particular time, during the time I was there

in "65 as we alluded to earlier was when the cars came with

air conditioners and also while I was there, Burns who had

been the mayor of Jacksonville was elected Governor and I

think due to his administration and the legislature at that

particular time, we dropped back to five days a week to

work. We were working six days a week at that time and we

changed to five days a week.

JR: Did you have any idea of what the strength of the Patrol

was in 1965?

RG: In "65, I really don't know, in otherwords, it was probably

in the vicinity of 600 somewhere along in there, I really

don't know. Probably was 6 to 7 hundred. If I'm not

mistaken, the I.D. numbers were approaching the 700 range.

JR: You had a rather traumatic experience when you were

stationed in Fort Myers, Captain Garris. Would you like to

elaborate on what took place then?

RG: When I came to Fort Myers, I worked two days and I had one

day off and the fourth day that I worked there, I was out

near the j Beach road and I met a car that had

one headlight, it was just after dark.....

JR: This was the Ycko'onville Beach road?

RG: I'm sorry, it was the Fort Myers Beach road and just after

dark and I think it was September 4th, just after 7:00


JR: What year was this Captain?

RG: In 1953 and I turned around and stopped the car with one

headlight and when I stopped him, I pulled in behind him

and got my ticket book which would have been the correction

card book and my flashlight and got out and just as I

slammed the door, I was shot through the right leg. I

didn't know at first what it was but I felt it go through

the lower part of my upper right thigh and then I saw the

flash of a second shot so a little gun battle ensued at

that particular time, I shot six times and that other

fellow shot five times and he ran around the front of his

car aways and fell, and I realized at that time I had

unloaded my gun. I snapped it a couple of times and when I

looked through from the headlights of my car shining

through the other car, I saw another person in the car. So

I loaded up my gun right quick, my revolver, and just as I

loaded it up, the fellow had gotten out of the right-hand

side of the door and I hollered to him to throw down

whatever he had or I would kill him, and he did. He had a

.38 revolver and threw it down and I made him come back to

me. He was rather tall, he was about 6 ft. 1 in. or 2 in.

but he was only --6 years old. So I handcuffed him and made

him get in the car and that particular time, I called the

radio for help and shortly thereafter it was not too far

away from where Kaufman, who was a sergeant at that time,

arrived at the scene and a couple of deputy sheriffs and a

black fellow drove up at that time, and I have forgotten

his name now, but I asked him to check the other man to see

where he was and he walked over to him about the time

Kaufman came up and he came back and told me that he was

over there and that he was dead. Later we found the reason

for all of this was that these two people had robbed a home

in Jacksonville, excuse me in Fort Myers Beach, and killed

two people and set fire to the house and they had driven

about four miles from where that had happened when I

stopped them and he thought that I knew that he had done

this when I stopped him for the headlight and that's why he

started shooting right away.

JR: And what year was this, Captain Garris?

RG: In September 1953.

JR: Okay, let's go back to Jacksonville tenure of duty. You

were there for how long?

RG: I was in Jacksonville three years, I was there "64, "65 and

"66 and early "67 I was promoted to lieutenant and

transferred back to Miami.

JR: In 1966?

RG: In "67 early "67.

JR: Who was the troop commander in Miami at the time you were

down there?

RG: In Miami at that particular time, W. A. Stevens was the

captain and Johnny Hicks was the lieutenant, excuse me I'm

sorry, Stevens retired at that particular time, he had been

the captain, Johnny Hicks made captain, he was the troop

commander in Troop E in Miami, and I was the lieutenant

along with Howard Gracey, who was another lieutenant there

who was operating as a duty officer in the station.

JR: You were in Miami for how long?

RG: I was in Miami from "67 early "67, April of "67, until

about October of 1976 when I was promoted to captain and

came to the Investigation Section in Tallahassee.

JR: Did any significant events occur in Dade County, Miami

area, during your tenure of duty as a lieutenant, Captain


RG: Well, we had a- national convention, Republican National

Convention in "68, along with a riot in Liberty City at

that time, then we had the two conventions in "72, the

Democratic and the Republican Conventions that we had

probably 410 or 20 men assigned there along with an

accompanying riot each time in Liberty City, and numerous

other details where Presidents came and heads of other

states and we assisted the secret service whenever asked.

But a number of things happened in Miami daily.

JR: You were promoted to captain in October of 1976?

RG: I came to Tallahassee in October, if I'm not mistaken, I

think it was along about October.

JR: Of "76?

RG: Of "76.

JR: Alright sir, and you had the rank of captain and in what

capacity were you to serve in Tallahassee, were you talking

about being sent to GHQ, general headquarters?

RG: As the chief investigator in the Investigation Section

.... unk .....

JR: You were, Chief, that was your title?

RG: Yes,

JR: Chief investigator?

RG: Yes.

JR: Who was the director of the Highway Patrol when you came


RG: Beach was the director at that time. In the meantime,

probably there had been a promotion and another position

made available as the executive director and Colonel

Kirkman was promoted as the executive director and Colonel

Clifton was made director of the Highway Patrol and he

served in that capacity from probably around "68 somewhere

along in there until about "72, somewhere along in there,

maybe less time than that, somewhere along in there, and

Beach was made director probably early in 1972, and he was

the director during the Republican and Democratic National

Conventions in 1972 and he was in Miami with us at the

time. When I came to Tallahassee, he was the director.

JR: Colonel Beach, Colonel J. E. Beach?

RG: Yes, and H. Lee Simmons was the deputy director and

lieutenant colonel under Beach.

JR: Captain Garris, did the statewide, or did the Investigation

Section exercise enforcement responsibilities statewide or

was it just in one particular area, or what was it's

primary function when you came here to Tallahassee?

RG: Statewide internal affairs more or less and investigations

and auto theft investigations and we had persons stationed

all over the state.

JR: Do you recall how many investigators that you had?

RG: Not exactly, if I'm not mistaken, there probably was about

15, if I'm not, maybe less, 13 or 15 somewhere along in


JR: Someone was assigned to each troop and maybe some troops

had more than one.

RG: Yes, in Miami,

JR: Of course, you had a couple of staff people?

RG: Yes,

JR: How long did you serve as the chief investigator, Captain


RG: I was here for "a little more than a year, "76 and then

about February of "78, I was sent back to Miami as the

troop commander, troop commander of Troop E.

JR: Who did you relieve?

RG: Johnny Hicks was promoted to major and came to Tallahassee

and I went back to Miami.

JR: As troop commander?

RG: Yes,

JR: 1978?

RG: 1978, and we still had the three counties, Dade, Broward

and Monroe Counties at that particular time.

JR: Do you recall the number of personnel that you had assigned

to Troop E, let's just say for Dade County?

RG: Well, for the whole troop, the best I remember, I think it

was 102 or 104 people including civilians and everyone, now

in Dade County, there probably was about 60 some people if

I'm not mistaken. Still fairly low. Broward County had

quite a few also.

JR: How long were you troop commander there?

RG: I retired the end of October which would have been November

1st really of 1978 and came to Tallahassee to work for the

Governor's Highway Safety Commission.

JR: Let's go back to Dade County or your tenure as lieutenant,

I'm sorry, I mean as troop commander. Were there any

events that took place during that time that would be of

any difference or rather than the normal, routine

day-to-day affairs of operating or running a troop that you


RG: Well, no, not anything more than normal things except we

had one trooper that had stopped a car out near the airport

expressway on the westbound side of it and was off the

highway and a drunk driver came along and hit him and

killed him, and then we had another trooper that was shot

along with a wrecker driver on the Turnpike that we took

part in and those two events occurred during the time that

I was there and those are the only two outstanding things

you say rather than normal operations.

JR: What was the name of the trooper who was hit by the

automobile, do you recall his name?

RG: Barnwell, if I'm not mistaken, I'd have to look again and

then the other trooper that was shot was on the Turnpike

and I don't remember his name now.

JR: You were troop commander for how long specifically,


RG: Actually it was only from February until the end of


JR: You were assigned apparently just from, I learned a thing

that I was not aware of, you had the opportunity and the

privilege of being stationed in several areas throughout

the state during your career with the Patrol, most of it

was primarily in the southern end of the state, central

part of it with the exception of the years you were here in

GHQ. What was the, what area did you enjoy the most and

the years that you were there?

RG: Well, the time in Highlands County and Sebring and Avon

Park area was very enjoyable time and the time in Lake

County was very good. Of course, all of them were

enjoyable, I hated to leave all of them, when I left but

those were the two most desirable areas in my opinion,

Highlands County and Sebring, Tavares and Lake County.

JR: There were a lot of people that you came in contact with

during your tenure with the Patrol and I think that Captain

Garris was pretty well known throughout the state as far as

the Patrol was concerned, you had a good reputation, and

everybody liked you and you had a real knack getting along

with people. What do you attribute that to, Captain


RG: Well, I liked people and I liked to get along with them and

I enjoyed the time that I spent in these different areas

and I hated to leave everyone of them that I left and I

didn't particularly want to go to the ones that I went to,

but after I was there awhile, I enjoyed it and I had the

opportunity to meet a lot of fine people and I'd do the

same thing again if I had to do it over.

JR: You had no qualms about the career path that you chose?

RG: No.

JR: You retired from the Patrol then in October 1988 and from

there where did you go?

RG: Actually it was the end of October 1978, and I went to the

Governor's Highway Safety Commission which at that

particular time was under the Governor's office, then it

was changed into Community Affairs Department and I was a

t I ,

planner with them at first and then I was promoted to

Highway Safety Administrator and we administered and

developed federal grants for all sorts of police

departments and safety departments within the state,

engineers and police departments, sheriffs offices and

everything and we had the whole state to control and it was

a federal program with federal funds. It was an enjoyable

time too, I spent about five and a half years with them.

JR: And from there you went to

RG: Back as a civilian with FHP Division in the Department of

Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles as a management review

specialist and about May 15 of "84 I came back and I'm

still here at this time.

JR: Very good. Something that I did not ask you earlier

Captain Garris, you are married to whom?

RG: Cookie Garris and I have a stepdaughter, Nicki who is 16

years old.

JR: And your wife is from where?

RG: She is from Monticello originally.

JR: Her date of birth?

RG: She was born in "54 in September.

JR: Your stepdaughter's age today is?

RG: She is 16 and will be 17 her next birthday.

JR: She goes to school?

RG: North Florida Christian School in Tallahassee and she is a

cheerleader among other things and soft ball player.

JR: And you are a big part of that too from what I understand?

RG: Yes.

JR: Captain Garris, is there anything else now that you can

think of before we conclude this interview.

RG: There was only one other memorable time that stands out in

my memory that during the time in Key West rather in

Marathon in Monroe County, in the latter part of "60, when

Donna, the hurricane came through, and that was a traumatic

time for about four days or more and Johnny Hicks again,

was the first sergeant in Miami, he came down to stay with

me during that time and there were nine of us in the little

Patrol station during the heighth of the storm which got up

close to 200 miles per hour. We thought we would never see

4 q #

daylight again. It really looked like a war zone when it

was over and the next day, the bridges were washed out and

they had to fly in water to us, the Navy had to set up soup

kitchens for us to eat in the next morning, it looked like

a war zone. At that particular time, Colonel Clifton and

Simmons, I have forgotten what his rank was, he was

probably inspector at that time, flew down in the 310 to

see Johnny Hicks and myself and they stayed there while we

went to Miami, got a shower and a little rest and came back

in the airplane.

JR: How many troopers were on that detail, do you recall?

RG: They sent us a few extra ones during the storm, probably

there was about, we had a couple of extra in Islamorada on

the north end, we had a couple in Key Largo, there was

probably about 12 people altogether including who we had

stationed there which would have been about 5 people.

JR: Were there any loss of life as a result of the hurricane?

RG: If I'm not mistaken, I think there were five people killed

and an untold amount of damages. It twisted off telephone

poles, tornados within the storm, there were sharks on the

runway of the airport, there were big boats in the middle

of the highway and if I'm not mistaken, I think Hicks and I

took a car to go as far north as we could to see where the

first bridge was washed out, we had four flat tires before

we got there.

JR: From nails and debris?

RG: We were driving on four flats when we got there.

JR: Anything else Captain Garris?

RG: No, I think that's about it.

JR: Well, on behalf of Director Burkett, let me just say thank

you so much for sharing with us your thoughts and the

history of the Patrol as you saw it and the events that

took place during your tenure with the Patrol. You

certainly have made a contribution to the Highway Patrol

and I appreciate the opportunity to have been the person to

have interviewed you.

RG: Since you bring up Colonel Burkett or Director Burkett's

name, it reminds me that in Fort Myers I was there when he

started as a DL examiner, he had worked at a service

station there and was a DL examiner during the time that I

was stationed there when Simmons was lieutenant, Kaufman

was the sergeant and Sutton and myself were the two

troopers there and I remember he was meticulous and neat

and clean and did things right.

JR: What year was this, Captain?

RG: That was probably in 1954 somewhere along in there.

JR: And he is today serving in what capacity?

RG: As the Director of the Florida Highway Patrol Division.

JR: And his full name?

RG: Bobby R. Burkett.

JR: Very good. Anything else Captain Garris?

This will conclude the interview and thank you so much.


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