DIVISION OF FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL
50TH ANNIVERSARY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interview with Major Thomas A. Sigman
Interviewed by Mikell Bowen
Date Interviewed May 19, 1989
MB: This is May 19, 1989. Major T. .A. Sigman is being
interviewed in- his office at 1:25 p.m. for the FHP oral
history project. As you know Major the FHP will observe its
50th anniversary in 1989 and this interview will establish
your knowledge of and your input into the past history of
the Patrol. Please give me your name for our files.
TAS: Tom Sigman.
MB: What date did you start with the Highway Patrol?
TAS: August the 12th 1956.
MB: When were you born?
TAS: April the 20th, 1934.
TAS: Charlotte, North Carolina.
MB: What jobs did you hold prior to becoming a trooper?
TAS: Well as a youngster while I was going through high school
from the 8th grade through the 12th, I was involved in what
they call DCT or diversified cooperative training in the
high school in St. Augustine and I worked at the drug store
the Rexall drug store in St. Augustine for approximately 6
years but from the 8th through the 12th I got out of school
at 3:15 p.m. and went to work at 4:00 and got off at 10:00
and I was what they called the delivery boy or stockman when
I wasn't delivering drugs.
MB: You went to elementary school and high school in St.
TAS: I went to Orange Street Elementary and then I went to high
school at Catalina High School.
MB: Did you receive any other form of training before entering
MB: You served in the United States Marines I understand and
obtained the rank of Corporal before being discharged. Tell
me about the service.
TAS: I went into the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from
high school and spent two years in ..went in and went to
Paris Island and went through boot camp and then I went to
Jacksonville to school and from there I went to photography
school in Pensacola at the Naval base and then when I
finished there I went to Miami and was put in the third air
wing and my duties were like disaster type photography
anytime anything happened to the military aircraft or
vehicles I would go out and take the appropriate pictures
and so forth for the investigation and I had two years but I
spent over a year in school and I wanted to go overseas but
they told me I would have to ship over...if I wanted to go
overseas and I didn't want to do that at that time but I
thoroughly enjoyed my military. I think it changed me from
the high school lad to a man and I have always been fond of
my memories of the Marine Corp.
MB: Most former marines are, aren't they?
TAS: Yes they sure are. The old saying once a marine always a
MB: Why did you decide to come on the Patrol?
TAS: That's an excellent question. I have often debated that
myself...thinking back why or how did I end up here. I
thank goodness that I did but the biggest reason I suppose
as I stated I was in accident photography in the service and
I was interested in that field and then when I got out and
was looking for permanent type career the Patrol was kind of
the lead of law enforcement at that time which I consider it
still is and it went from there. I talked one of the
troopers in St. Augustine into letting me ride with. him one
night and I really liked the freedom the outdoor type of
work and you are kind of on your own as long as you, do your
job and so forth and I applied for it and fortunately I was
accepted and been here ever since.
MB: About how much did you make when you first came on the
TAS: $275.00 when we first started and then it gradually started
going up from there after a few months but it was $275.00
the first few months.
MB: What training school were you in?
TAS: The 14th recruit class and it was located where the present
facility is now only at that time it was in the old
barracks. They were quite comfortable at the time except
when you go to the training facility now you really see what
comfort is and how nice it is but at the time we thought we
had it made so to speak and it was real nice...we enjoyed
MB: What kind of courses did you take?
TAS: They had a variety of different courses. You had first aid
naturally and your traffic accident investigation and your
regulatory traffic laws and other miscellaneous laws that
would come into effect out on the highways....courtesy
public speaking, self defense. I remember Tony- Maseda which
just retired recently he was one of the charter members of
the Patrol I had the good fortune of him instructing us in
self defense and Tony is one of the better ones we ever had
and I enjoyed that.
MB: Did you have much physical training?
TAS: We jogged every morning and did regular calisthenics and
naturally as it was in the Marine Corp. it was the same in
the Patrol recruit you were always doing something wrong so
they would put you through these calisthenics of course that
was for your own good and betterment of the outfit but you
got enough physical training.
MB: What equipment were you issued when you graduated?
TAS: Well in my particular case when I...on graduation day they
ended up they had made a mistake and they ended up having me
going to two different places. They had two letters. One
of them going to Lakeland and the other going to Leesburg
and as it ended up eventually they sent me to Leesburg and
they didn't have enough cars back then because there was two
of us going into Leesburg out of that recruit class to take
the position that another senior trooper had transferred to
Deland and we only had one car which was issued to the other
trooper. It was a 55 Ford with a standard shift which was
the last standard shift that the Patrol had for many years
and then we both used it on different shifts. If he worked
the early --shift like 6 to 3, I would work the 3 to 12 and
he'd come in and we roomed together and we had an upstairs
apartment and I could turn the television on and I could
hear him coming in and back then the TV's.wasn't as good as
they are today and it would pick up what he was saying so I
could tell what activities he had for that day and I knew I
had to get out there and beat him so we kept a little
running competition going in good humor but we had the old
55 Ford and we put over 100,000 on the cars back then. My
first car was a 56 Ford which had 37,000 it was a sergeant's
car out of Orlando and as you are probably aware. they never
issued a recruit trooper a new vehicle until they had at
least a year on because they figured if you were going to
wreck one you'd wreck it in the first year and they want you
to wreck an old one so I had that 56 and it was the first
one that the Patrol had with an automatic transmission.
MB: Do you remember who was in charge of training at the
TAS: Lieutenant Dickerson. I can't remember his first name off
hand but it was Lieutenant Dickerson in charge of the
training now he was in charge of the firearms and the
physical type and I believe back then it was Captain Hall I
know his name as good as I know mine and he was an
outstanding leader and set a example that everybody could
follow. He was real strict but everybody completely
respected that gentleman and he was one of the reasons the
Patrol is what it is today because of the manner and the way
he trained people back then.
MB: Were there any dropouts from your training school?
TAS: There was as I recall about 5. We ended up with 47 in the
14th recruit class and there was about 5 dropouts. We also
had a sheriff, the Sheriff Rodney Thursby from Volusia
County went through. He was elected Sheriff and never had
any experience in law enforcement or no background so he
went through the Patrol school with us then became sheriff
of Volusia County. And by the way with the 47 that
graduated at the present time I am the only one still on
active duty from that class so is fast going by the wayside.
MB: What sticks out in your mind on your career on the Highway
TAS: Association with fine professional officers. They are
underpaid but day in and day out they get out there and
serve the public. Its a non-thank you type job on a lot of
things we do because our main contact with people is telling
them that they are doing something wrong on traffic
violations and basically people don't like that but the
Highway Patrol is fortunate to have the leaders and troopers
that are professional people and even though they are
underpaid they still serve the public in an outstanding
manner that they do.
MB: Can you name some people on the Patrol who have been
influential in your career?
TAS: My second troop commander when I was stationed in Leesburg,
Captain Harry Weaver was in Orlando, he is probably the one
that stands out in my mind as being the top ethics morality
just generally super person both supervisor wise and trooper
wise and as a man. I think retired Captain Russell Garris
stands out in my mind as one of the sharpest people I have
ever seen in uniform and one of the most enjoyable people to
work around. Whenever you are working with Captain Garris
he could kick your spirits and it was a pleasure to work
with him rather than it didn't seem like a job you sometimes
wonder why you are getting paid for doing this but he's a
fine, fine individual. I always liked him and I always call
him I-nspector Lee Simmons. He was another man of high
ethics and morality. A very knowledgeable person that was
second ranking individual in the Department and I can always
remember as a rookie trooper every time you would see him
when he had his winter shirt on he had about five or six of
those stars on his left sleeve and I would just stand there
in amazement with it and say well someday maybe I'll have
that many but he was another fine, fine individual.
MB: What were the living conditions in your first location?
TAS: They were on today's standard they would be fair but at that
time I would call it good. I was single at the time and
Trooper Jones and myself had a room together and he
eventually transferred to Titusville and I obtained another
room by myself and I remember I paid $35.00 a week for a
room and that's just what it was a room you had to eat all
of your meals out there were no facilities to cook anything
and I didn't get married until 1959 and then we purchased a
house and at that time we were paying $65.00 for a two
bedroom one bath block type house. It was a nice house. It
wasn't very large but it was all we needed at the time.
That was in Leesburg.
MB: Describe how the equipment has changed over the years. Your
vehicles, your paint jobs for instance, your side arms
TAS: The vehicles have gone from as I stated moments ago we
had...when I first came on they were just phasing out the
standard shifts and went into automatic transmissions and
now we have gone full cycle we are back into the standard
shift on the Mustangs. The paint schemes have changed very
little even though the hood used to be where now it is solid
the hood back then on a marked unit had kind of a "v" type
shape on it and was real attractive I thought and they had
those federal sirens on the top which was a single light and
it had a light in the front and a light in the back and it
was a pointed type light and it was very attractive I think
more so than the ones we have today but they weren't very
loud the sirens weren't very loud and the lights weren't as
good as we have today. The equipment we have today is some
of the best I think in the country. I have checked
everywhere throughout the states and I have yet to find
anybody that is receiving what our present Director,
Director Bobby Burkett, he's got it to the point that the
trooper now has a choice of a Mustang or a regular patrol
unit and they also have a choice of firearms between the
magnum and the 9mm handgun and it is strictly voluntary they
can have either one they want just as we reorder the
Director has got it set up where they can order what they
need so we have real good equipment today. We have radars
today but I can remember before we even had radars we had
the old speed timing device which had two rubber tube type
hoses that you stretched across the road so many feet apart
and when the car ran over the first one you would flip a
switch and then when he hit the second one it would shut it
off and that would compute your time and give you his speed
and we would all have to sit back and run them out what we
call a hole back in a parked area or behind the bushes or
something like that but today we have the moving radar which
is great. Now I have seen the radar come from the stage
where a supervisor had to run it to now just about everybody
on the Patrol has a radar so we are doing real good on
equipment I think probably one of the better equipped
agencies in the country.
MB: Your record reflects that you have received many letters of
commendation during your career. What is your opinion on
how a trooper should approach the motoring public and still
carry out his duties?
TAS: I go back to the old adage... treat other people like you'd
want to be treated. If it was your wife, your brother, your
sister or your mother or something out there how would
you...what would you do to help them. One of the biggest
thrills I get out of working road today when I get out
there... I always have and I probably always will... is when
a disabled motorist or something like that you really have
an opportunity to make a friend for the Department. Those
people are lost even though it may be only a few miles to
the next service station or something on that order when
they are broken down... they are like in the middle of the
desert and when you drive up you can just see relief come
over them and you offer to help them and act like you are
really interested in their problem it really works for you.
The same way with motorists... a vast number of the
motorists have no problem with the citation you have' to sell
it to them and do it with courtesy-and explain to them you
are out there to not only to save their life but lives of
other motorists and I just enjoy working the road where you
can assist people. I do not enjoy putting people in jail.
I do it especially on drunk drivers and that type of thing
but I can't say that I enjoy or get a big charge out of
putting people in jail but I understand that is necessary
especially with a drunk driver situation but I do enjoy
assisting people that is one of my biggest thrills is when I
get to assist one or the way you handle them after an
accident and assist them to get a motel room or whatever you
might do and it is just great.
MB: You sound like a pretty nice person. You were assigned to
the World's Fair in New York City in 1964, did you enjoy it?
TAS: I sure did. I tell you how that came over or how I heard
about that I was patrolling between Leesburg and Eustis on
State Road 44 and got a call on the radio back then we
didn't have a station in Leesburg and we had to work out of
Orlando and said Captain Weaver wants you to call the
station and I thought then well I am going to St. Augustine
cause at that particular time they were having the (unk)
situation in St. Augustine and I just (unk) send me to St.
Augustine and when I called him he said do you want to go to
the World's Fair in New York and I said yes sir and he said
now wait a minute before you answer you better talk this
over with your wife because it is going to be for 3 months
and I said okay I'll call you back tomorrow so I discussed
it with my wife and she has always been agreeable she is a
Department person she understands how it works and that part
has gone smooth all my career. She understands about being
late and so forth. I have been very fortunate to have a
wife such as she is to understand all these things.. But
anyway I went that is the way I ended up up there and I
enjoyed that. It is a different world. I don't know that
I'd like to live up there. It's a hustle and bustle all the
time and the unions are quite strong. I remember I got in
trouble one night at the Florida Pavillion at the World's
Fair because they had to have a union man come around and
turn the light switch on you couldn't turn a switch on to
turn on the lights on and it was getting dark out where the
porpoise tank was and I just walked in and flipped the
switch before long they had the head union man around there
and I was about to be in trouble so it is a little bit
different than we are down here but we met a lot of nice
people. One of the big thrills of it we met so many other
troopers from other agencies across, at that time, 48
states. We would get together about once a week and go out
and eat and so forth and it was to talk over the differences
in the Department and even back then it was evident that the
Florida Highway Patrol was just about a step or two ahead of
most of them but I really enjoyed the World's Fair. I
appreciate the Department for giving me that opportunity to
MB: After Captain Prater, I believe it was, retired didn't you
serve as acting troop commander? For a short time or was
that a different one?
TAS: That was a different one. Captain Hill was here when I came
here. Captain Jimmy Hill and I just need to say a word
about that man while I am thinking about it because he is
one of the finest people, I should have mentioned him while
ago and it slipped my mind but if anybody ever knew Captain
Jimmy Hill when he was with the Patrol still today he is
herein Palatka and still the same way he's probably out of
all the people I have ever known worked with and worked for
he has the best rapport with people of anybody I have ever
seen both employees and the general public and he can get
things headed in his direction the way he wants it to go in
a manner that makes the employee want to do it and want to
be part of the team and I have really tried to adopt some of
his procedures in what I attempt to do but he is an
exceptional man with people and I think he got a lot of
experience up when he handled Colonel Kirkman back when he
was stationed in Tallahassee and I think he was also in
charge of the records section which had a vast number of
employees in records and he..... it was a problem but he
gained vast experience in that field. He is a natural in
public relations with people.
MB: How do you look on your career with the Patrol when you look
back on it having reached your majority?
TAS: I have been very fortunate. I've always had good
supervisors wherever I worked I've been fortunate to have
good supervisors. The men that I have been stationed with
we worked good together and I think a lot of it comes, I
hope, because of what you put into it. You get out of it
what you put into it but I have been very fortunate having
the supervisors I've had. They would direct you in the
right direction the same with the people working with you.
I now...in another couple of months will have 33 years on
and the only thing I dislike about that is because of the
number of years that I have left are becoming short to where
it is mandatory retirement. I don't know that I will stay
that long but I really if I could throw up a coin and start
over I would like to start over again I have enjoyed it so
much. It has its ups and downs but everything does.
Looking at the big picture I just thank the good Lord that
somehow I ended up in this.
MB: Thank you.