DIVISION OF FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL
50TH ANNIVERSARY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interview with Captain Jimmy Hill
Employed with FHP March 1951 to January 1975
Interviewed by Michael Bowen
Date Interviewed February 14, 1989
MB: This is February 14, 1989, at twenty-one minutes to
eleven. I am Michael Bowen. I am interviewing Captain
Jimmy Hill. retired from the Highway Patrol. This is
suppose to-be a portion of the Florida Highway Patrol's
fiftieth anniversity celebration. You know that the
Florida Highway Patrol will observe its fiftieth
anniversity in 1989. This interview is designed to
establish your knowledge of and your input into the
past history of the patrol. Please give me your name
for our files.
JH: My name is Jimmy Hill.
MB: What date did you start with the Patrol?
JH: I started as a recruit on March 16, 1951.
MB: What was your rank at time of retirement?
JH: I retired with the rank of Captain.
MB: Where were you born?
JH: I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas.
MB: What did you do for a living prior to becoming a
JH: After I came out of the Navy, I worked for a short
period of time for a grocery store and then went to
work for Ice company, we built it and I worked as the
Assistant Manager and Assistant Engineer.
MB: You worked for an Ice Company?
JH: Uha It was called Citizen's Ice Company.
MB: Where was that?
JH: That was in Miami. Dade County. I was the ice man.
MB: Where did you go to elementary school?
JH: I went to elementary school in Miami. Ada Merritt no
it was Ada Merritt Junior High, I went to and I can't
remember the elementary school. I can tell you where
it was located, but I can't tell you the name of it.
MB: Where did you attend high school?
JH: I went to high school in Miami. I attended Miami
Senior High School.
MB: Did you graduate?
JH: No, I didn't graduate from there, I went to, I was in
high school when World War II broke out. I went into
the service and finished high school at an adult school
after I came home from the service.
MB: What period of time were you in the military service?
JH: 1943 and got out the later part of December.45.
MB: What branch of service were you in?
JH: I was in the Navy.
MB: Where did you serve?
JH: I served in the Pacific aboard an air-craft carrier.
USS Bellean Wood.
MB: What experience did you have in there that sticks in
JH: Well, the one of the incidences on my birthday. In
whatever year it was I think it was 1943 1944. No it
wasn't, it was 1945, for the first carrier strike on
Japan after the Doolittle raid. And that was the our
carrier group went in there and we launched our
aircraft and raided and bombed Tokyo. And after that
during the battles Iwojima and Okinawa. Our carrier
group was out there where all the kamikaze planes were
crashing into our carriers. I saw the Franklin get
hit, I saw another carrier get sunk. And quite a
number of other ships. Those were quite an experience
for a youngster who wasn't quite twenty-one when he got
MB: How old were you when you went in?
JH: Uh eighteen.
MB: Was your ship attacked
JH: Well yeah, we were attached and we were fortunate to be
able to explode the kamikaze plane. I guess it was a
hundred fifty of the side of it coming straight into
us. I wet my pants.
MB: I should think so.
JH: If that's in this book, you are all in trouble.
MB: After you got out of service, uh you went to work for
the ice company?
JH: After I got out of the service, then I went to work for
a grocery store for a short period of time. Then we
built and ran this ice company. Hardist work I ever
did in my life.
MB: Why did you become a trooper?
JH: Well when I first came out of the service I went and
made an application. My buddy and I went and made an
application to the Miami Police Department. I can not
remember why they would not accept him and my loyalty
to him. I said well if they won't have you then I'm not
going. So I had this interest in law enforcement and
after I had worked for the ice company for a period of
time several years. The age of the ice machine came in
to being and we could see that the old ice plants as
they were were slowly to fade out. So my boss whose
name incidently was Hill but no relation, he told me
one day, he said Son you ought to look around cause the
ice industry is not going to be here and there is not
going to be any big future in it. So one morning I was
reading in the paper where the Highway Patrol was going
to put on uh I don't know twenty-five new troopers or
fifty. So I went to a Highway Patrol station on West
Flagler Street where it is right now and contacted
Trooper Randy Robinson who gave me an application and
Randy told me to take a long look at this thing cause
these twelve hour days and six days a week are really
MB: Thats what you worked when you first came on the
MB: Do you remember what your salary was back then?
JH: Well if I'm not mistaken I think it was one hundred
seventy-five a month. Uh no Mike I've got it right
here, a hundred fifty dollars a month. I just happen
to flip to it here, I just thought of it. And shortly
after I came on we got a pay raise it went to two
MB: What FHP Training School were you in and where?
JH: I went to Eglin Air Force Base, I don't remember the
number of the -school but we went in October of 1951.
And that was the same school that Randy Robinson, uh so
forth was all in. It is the only school that there is
not a photograph of the class at the Academy.
MB: You went to Elgin Air Force Base.
MB: And you were quartered in barracks there?
JH: Yea we stayed in the barracks out there. H. Lee
Simmons was uh Major Simmons retired. He was one of
our instructors. He was a Sergeant then. And John
Lacky was too. I remember both of those because they
were instructors and actually attended the school at
MB: Do you remember what courses you were given in
JH: Well natural first aid, uh I think Captain Hagis
taught everybody in the state first aid. Uh
regulatory traffic law, uh criminal law, geography, uh
just a few right quick off the top of my head. It was
a six weeks course, was all it was.
MB: Did you have any physical training?
JH: Yea, we as a matter of fact Sergeant Lacky gave us most
of our physical training. Uh we did calisthenics every
each morning, ran (unk) drill, uh and that was about
the extent of it and when Captain Robinson came over
and a little physical training with it and taught us
unarmed defense, judo so as to speak.
MB: You said this course was six weeks long?
MB: What kind of uniform did you have then?
JH; Well, the first (UNK) was hand me downs from a fellow
he must have been nine feet tall, the shirt sleeves
were to long for me and at that time we didn't have
short sleeve shirts. We wore long sleeve shirts uh
which were gray, grayish in color with the pants I
think have always been the pinks if I remember
right.the name of them. Uh the shirts never did
match. When I first came to work we had to wear a tie
and finally the old Colonel said well we'll let them
take the ties off in the summertime. But when I first
got there we wore a dadcome tie in the summer.
MB: How did they change over the years?
JH: Well of course
MB: Besides the tie?
JH: Well we went to short sleeves uh the Director wasn't in
agreement with it. Cause he wanted his people to look
neat and professional. Originally the psychological
thing there to when I first came on everyone had to be
at least 6 feet tall. Uh and when you a man six feet
tall with a stetson on and really nothing to show his
physical strength such as his arms or anything. I feel
was a great deturant uh back then we just didn't have
that many fights. When a trooper told you to do
something you did it.
JH: Yes you know ok. Of course we had there are always
MB: Were there any drop-outs in your class?
JH: I don't think there was. I don't think we had any.
Well all the men except one were previously on the
Patrol, we had all been hired and sent to school
later. We did that many times back then. The only one
that was the brand new recruit was Sam Oswald. He was
from West Florida, I remember Sam and all the rest of
them had experience on the road. Anywhere from three
months to a year. .Whatever cause they had to wait
until they had enough people for a class. We had two
hundred people on the Highway Patrol then. So you had
to wait until whatever the turn over or (UNK) or we got
more men to send us to school.
MB: What in your career do you remember that stands out as
JH: Probably the highlight of my career was the opportunity
that I got to get transferred to Headquarters and to
travel with the Director Colonel Colonel Kirkman.
MB: Did you travel much?
JH: I guess we did! We uh been to many other states.
Naturally all over the state of Florida and uh and an
opportunity to meet some very fine people. The
Governor from other states. Governors conferences. I
have been met other directors of Highway Patrols. Uh
people in the Driver License Division. As a result of
going to these different conferences and having the
opportunity to meet and to attend meetings with these
people. That was probably the highlight of my career.
And probably and there is no doubt about it. It was
the most beneficial time of my career, the knowledge
that I learned from just being around.
MB: You were at the fifty-eighth Governor's conference in
Miami weren't you?
JH: Yes, I certainly was. I think it was the first one
that we had. Leroy Collins was Governor. I think we
took a hundred and forty people down there. And it was
MB: Where all were you stationed?
JH: I started out in Bradenton, then I left the patrol for
a short period of time and then I came back on the
patrol in Tampa. Uh stayed in Tampa until 1958 and
went to Tallahassee where I was in Troop H as Driver
License Supervisor for a'period of time. And then was
transferred into Headquarters as the Accident Records
Officer, in 1968 and was promoted to Captain and came
to Palaka, Troop G, and retired in 1975.
MB: You say you were the Accident Records Officer in
MB: What did that intale?
JH: Well to supervise the you know the patrol had a
responsibility for maintain files on all the accident
reports that incurred in the State of Florida. And
each police .agency and sheriff's office in the State of
Florida that investigated a traffic accident sent a
copy to us. And gosh I can remember way back then we
would get two hundred and fifty thousand. There is no
telling how many now. But from there we comprised the
accident statistics uh the accident experience
throughout the State of Florida and came up with the
statistical report uh maintain the files on them, put
them in uh example into the microfilm, maintained the
service for those persons that had a need for them.
And of course these files were an excellent source for
studying the total accident picture, for example the uh
Triple A came in one time and did a study on all fatal
accidents. And the would go back to the accident
records and to the Driver License records and took a
person who had a fatal accident and go back to his
starting when he first got his driver license and
followed his driving experiences such the warning, the
tickets, the accidents and all of a sudden bang he
killed himself. And there was a very definate pattern
there. So by viture of this record section we were
able to perform that type of service. We also had a
group of Department of Transportation employees there
who studied uh when a traffic survey would be needed.
In other words if there were a large number of
accidents in an area, then the engineers would to in
and see if this was an engineering problem or if one of
the men observed a situation where a more traffic
control be needed. So they had all these things
there. It was a tremendous Department.
MB: How many employees in this department at that time?
JH: I remember there were about fifty-seven. All females.
MB: Is that what they called it?
JH: No. They were a great bunch of people. In fact some
of them are still there. Some very fine ladies.
MB: When you first came on the patrol, where did you say
you were stationed?
MB: What were the living conditions back then?
JH: Uh, it was rough, uh gosh I'm trying to remember. Rent
was it was very hard to find a place, we had a little
two bedroom house over in Palmetto and it was $50.00 a
month even back then it was unbelievable. And we were
lucky to find that.
MB: What do you see as the greatest difference in the
Florida Highway Patrol now and as it was when you were
JH: Well, when I first came on for example, I was in
Manatee County. There were only, lets see there were
four of us there. Plus the Sergeant There were two of
us in the north end of the county and two in the
south. We were the only ones there, the traffic was
not such as it is now, naturally in this day and
time. We were closer to the community, we knew
everyone out on our run and we looked forward to
meeting the people, not necessary to write a ticket but
in our day to day contact it was a we had an
opportunity to really serve the public and be a friend
to them out there then the fellows do now. The volume
is just not there, the mass of people just doesn't
enable that type of thing to take place. It may in
smaller areas but in the larger areas, take Miami for
example it's just no way.
MB: Where did you, you told me one time about the your
experience in Tampa with the woman's club.
JH: Oh yeah, I learned early in my career if you wanted to
get something done uh go give the challenge to the
women. Uh Randy Robinson was the Safety Education
Officer in Lakeland. He was the Troop Safety Education
Officer and as time went along, it got so big as Tampa
started to grow and Clearwater and St. Pete grow, Randy
couldn't not handle all the problems, so he called me
one day and asked me if I would go handle the program
for the business and professional women's club in
Tampa. So I did. And I enjoyed doing it. As a matter
of fact when I first went to Bradenton, my Sergeant
Jerry Burddardt told me that I had been there about a
month. And incidentally it was the businee and
proffesional woman's club, he wanted me to go make a
safety talk. I said Sergeant I don't know what the
hell safety means, much less go give a talk. He said
well it either going to me or you and I ain't going.
So anyway I went and uh made a talk with them and this
one in Tampa. So Dr. Margaret Raffa, Chairman of the
Traffic Safety Committee uh said that they wanted a
project and at that time I had just completed
the old drunk-ometer school and was very enthused about
it and we didn't have one at the patrol station and we
would have to go by the Tampa Police Department, which
they were very gracious and would let us use there, so
I thought it would be very helpful if we had one at the
Tampa Highway Patrol station. So these ladies bought
and "raffled" a mink stole and bought us a
drunkodometer. Uh it was the first one that the
Highway Patrol had in the State of Florida. So
business professional women started that. And I guess
it on from that point in other states. I don't really
MB: Who amongest your fellow troopers and supervisors, made
the greatest impression on you during your career?
JH: Uh well there are two that really stand out. When I
was a young snotty nosed trooper in Bradenton when I
first went there I wasn't married and I stayed in the
old barracks at the old Bradenton-Sarasota airport and
one night a young Lieutenant came through and was going
to spend the night there with us and his name was
Lieutenant C. E." Red" Taylor and he sat on the edge of
the bunk bed and talked to me like I was just an old
long lost buddy and we talked and he gave me a lot of
advise that uh I followed down through my entire
career. And I was very impressed with the man. He was
a Lieutenant who came down and had time enough to spend
with a brand new rookie. And uh I just admired him I
never worked under him, I knew of him and of course
everybody else does to. To me he was one of the
smartest men that the Highway Patrol ever had. And
then another one that I greatly admired was Inspector
Lee Simmons. Uh I can never remember a time when
whatever it was he told me that it didn't prove to be
MB: It is kind of remarkable.
JH: Oh absolutely. Abslutely, but I had the greatest amount
of respect for that guy. I had a lot of respect for
many we had many very capable very excellent
supervisors, but those two just really stuck out.
MB: You went to Northwestern University?
MB: And spoke at the you were spokesman for the class at
graduation weren't you?
JH: Yeah, I didn't remember that. Uh and truly don't
remember what we even said. I just vaguely remember
the class and the banquet and the I don't really know
what I said. You know quite a long time ago. And had
really truely had forgotten about that. And (UNK)
where you'll came up with that information. But it was
a very good experience. I can remember some of the men
from the Washington State Patrol, and Kentucky Highway
Patrol, and some of the men from Canada. And there
were some people from foreign countries there. And uh
very very intelligent people there. I don't know how
in the heck I got in there. But anyway uh very good
experience and I don't know how I got chosen to say a
few words, but I done as I have been know to do, I will
talk if I get half a chance. So that is probably what
MB: What classes did you take at Northwestern?
JH: The uh I went two different times. The first time I
went was on accident records. Uh the second time was
police supervision. And both of them were two week
courses. May have been longer than that. I don't
MB: Do you remember which class you were spokesman for?
JH" Yeah it was the police supervision class.
MB: While you were involved with driving the Colonel
around, are there any incidents that come to your mind
that you could recount?
JH: Yeah I could give you an experience. There are two
things that come to my mind really. Uh at a Governor's
Inaugurable Ball. I can't remember if it was Hayden
Burns or that wasn't or Rueben Askew. Anyway we were
in Miami and uh then Sergeant Jack King who was one of
my pilots was rooming with me and we didn't have
anything to do that night so we decided to put on a
real show for the Colonel. Of course we all loved him
and respected him and we liked to show him a good
proper respect. So we set the thing up where I would
go to the front door and as the Colonel and Mrs.
Kirkman got off the elevator I would run down and get
his car and bring it up and Jack was going to ride
shotgun with me and he would open the door and you know
and assist Mrs. Kirkman and the Colonel into the car.
Then we planned when we got when we drove up in front
of the media and at the convention center we was going
to get out and come to right hand salute and just
really put it on for him. So the elevator door opened
and uh Jack waved to me and I went down to get his car
and it wasn'-t there. It was a brand new blue chrysler,
I will never forget it as long as I live. So I grabbed
one of those little fellows that park the car at the
hotel and I said what did you'll do with that blue
chrysler that was sitting there. They said we hadn't
done anything with it. Well then you had to leave the
keys in the car so that they were actually suppose to
park them but we wouldn't let them park, but in case
something gave up you had to leave the keys in there.
So uh then Lieutenant Tom Joyce was directing the uh
kind of transportation committee there and uh he eased
over to Jack, they were with Colonel and Mrs. Kirkman
where in the hell is Hill. So Tom and Jack realized
something is wrong. So a special detail car was
pulling up about that time. And Tom says Colonel he
probably got blocked in down there. How about just
taking this car and you'll run over and I'll tell him
that, we don't want to hold you up. He said good
thinking Joyce said yeah. Well we looked through that
entire lot and his car was gone. So I said My God
somebody has stolen the Colonel's car. Ironically
there was another blue chrysler that was stationed in
Miami which was a special detail car. And it was
sitting out there on the lot. And Tom says you know I
just sent that other blue crysler down to the
auditorium with Secetary of State so and so in it. I
said uhah lets hope and pray that is what happened that
he got the wrong blue crysler. So we went over to the
we took the blue crysler the special detail car and
went to the auditorium and asked I don't remember the
troopers name I said son let me see the keys to the car
you brought over here. And it was the keys to the
Colonel new crysler. So we swapped I'll tell you we
were all in deep deep shock. So he finally asked me,
the only time I ever lied to the Colonel, he says well
did you find my car. I said yes sir, I said one of
those fellows down there parking cars parked it down on
the street cause there wasn't any parking spaces and he
had forgotten where it was. Cause I believe at that
time he was you know the old Colonel would jump up and
down and scream at us and then the rest of the
conference would run real good. So I was afraid he
might jump up and scream and send somebody home, so I
told him a story. And I told him about it many years
later. And he just went "Hu" (UNK). And another thing
that I remember as a result of having uh having been
his aid was when we buried him up in Danville,
Virginia, there wasn't that many of us there. There
was a young trooper and I went up to be his honor guard
and Inspector Reddick came and Colonel Clifton and I
can't remember who else Major Keith came. As th
funeral service was going on we glanced up on the hill
just in back of the grave site, was the Highway
Patrol car- t-hat Reddick had brought up there.
Everybody down at the bottom could look up, it was
almost as if it was planned. That there was a Highway
Patrol car sitting up there, uh guarding him. But that
was probably uh one of the most rewarding times that I
uh was chosen one of the two people to go up there and
be his honor guard. It was a real prividge and an
honor for me to do that to a person who has been so
kind to me. I never told you that did I?
Can't hear what is being said, sounds like microphone dropped.
JH: Well I can think of a couple things that I had to go
and tell my Lieutenant who was Lieutenant Jim Prater
here in Tampa at the time. We had investigated I had
been on the scene of an airplane crash all day long and
it was nasty weather. The reason the plane crashed it
was because of rain and bad weather and this young
pilot I guess his engine quit but he crashed and it
killed him and we been out there all day long and
helping with the traffic and so forth and I was on the
way home late we didn't get any lunch uh that day which
is not unusual. Uh all the way home and there was a new
overpass that they were building just east of Tampa on
US 90. And it was still mud and there was a secondary
road that crossed right at the foot of it and it was a
big traffic jam so I pull over to the side and decided
I would stop and get out and direct traffic. And try
untangle the mess that was there and uh a man pulled by
and rolled his window down and hollered. I says what
the hell don't you learn how to direct traffic and I
told him why in the hell don't you learn to kiss my
behind. And knew that I had said it wrong and went
just as straight and I was embarrassed to tell my
Lieutenant what I had just done. I said you are going
to get a complaint, cause I just stuck my foot right in
it. And another time I was embarrassed but I don't
really think anybody saw me. But I was going from
Tallahassee to Tampa and at Chiefland there was a Betts
Big "T" Truckstop there and that was about half way in
between and we would stop and get a cup of coffee and
go to the bathroom so for some reason I was in a rush
to get on down there, so I just pulled up along side of
the curb, and just run in to use the bathroom and
walked in there and suddenly realized that I was in the
ladies restroom in full view. And somebody asked me
what would you have done if somebody had of been in
there. I said the only thing I could of think of is
just introduce myself and go on about my business.
But, when I came out I looked around real quick and I
didn't see anybody so I don't think I got caught. But
I was embarrassed to my ownself.
MB: Tell me about your attendance in adult school?
JH: Oh ok. World War II came along and I didn't complete
high school in the regular way so when I came back we
went to what they called and adult education school.
I'm trying to think of the name, it really doesn't
matter, but we would go to school at night and uh for
example you had certain requirements, you had to have
so much math, so much english, so forth so uh gosh when
I left high school I only think I had maybe 8 credits,
I think I needed 16. So I had an awful lot to do, so
in about 6 months it was an accelerated, you could take
the course just as hard and fast as you wanted to
work. So in about 6 months I completed my high school
by going to school 4 hours a night. And that was the
way I got my high school diploma going through that
adult education plan.
MB: You said you were born in Arkansas?
JH: Yeah, I talk about Little Rock, but I was actually born
in Smackover, Arkansas.
MB: Is that a town really?
JH: Well yeah it is a town and if the maps are any
indication, there's not about two thousand people in it
today. But it was a little ole I think they were
drilling for oil there during those times and uh for
some reason we got into Little Rock, I always said
Little Rock was where I was born. I think my records
show Little Rock instead of Smachover. Sounds a little
better doesn't it?
MB: Yes I agree with you. What did you do after you left
the patrol when you retired?
JH: Oh, I joined the I became the Chief of Police in
Palatka, January 1975.
MB: And you're still the Chief?
JH: I'm still there.
MB: This concludes the interview with Captain Jimmy Hill,
and I thank you sir.
JH: You'r welcome and I enjoyed doing it, it gave me a real
good feeling to think back upon my career and the
wonderful time that we spent with the Highway Patrol.