DIVISION OF FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL
50TH ANNIVERSARY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interview with CAPTAIN RUSSELL B. GARRIS
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?
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
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?
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
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
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?
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?
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
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?
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
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
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.
JR: Which would have
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
JR: Am I correct in that?
JR: How many troopers or what was the length of the Turnpike,
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
JR: That's as far south as you can just about....
RG: Key West is the only place that is further, it is fifty
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?
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?
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?
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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: Unk.....you 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?
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
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?
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
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
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?
JR: Chief investigator?
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?
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: 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?
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
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?
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.