DIVISION OF FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL
50TH ANNIVERSARY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interview with Mrs. Lena Lofton
Interviewed by Trooper Benjamin F. Hollinger, Jr.
Date Interviewed March 8, 1989
BH: .....the wife of the late Trooper Alphonso Lofton as part of
the Florida Highway Patrol history project. This interview
is being conducted at 10792 SW 165 Terrace in the home of
Mrs. Lofton. This is the eighth day of March, 1989, and the
time is 10:30 a.m. As you know the Florida Highway Patrol
will observe their 50th anniversary in 1989. This interview
will establish your knowledge and of your input into the
past history of the Florida Highway Patrol. Please give me
your name for our files?
LL: My name is Lena Lofton.
BH: Okay, would you spell your name please?
LL: L-e-n-a L-o-f-t-o-n.
BH: I understand that answering some of these questions that may
be asked will be difficult but Trooper Lofton was a very
loyal and respectable part of the history of the Florida
Highway Patrol. Please tell me from the beginning what was
the circumstances that occurred in Trooper Lofton's
background to him becoming a Florida Highway Patrol trooper?
LL: Well at the time he was looking for a job because he had
just been discharged from the United States Marine Corp. He
applied for several state positions, one was the Florida
Highway Patrol and the other was corrections. Corrections
came through first so he was working as a correctional
officer in Lake Butler when he got a call from Highway
Patrol saying that they were interested and they still had
his application on file and he pursued it.
BH: I understand you said he worked for the correction in Lake
Butler. What capacity did he work there as?
LL: He was a correctional officer I. I think he got promoted to
II before he left.
BH: Okay. You also indicated that he was in the Marine Corp.
Can you tell me any service (Unk) that took place in the
Marine Corp? Did he serve in Vietnam?
LL: Yes he did. He served for 4 years He was stationed in
Camp LeJune twice during his enlistment. He was a sergeant
E5 when he got out.
BH: Please tell me what you know about Trooper Lofton's earlier
life. Did you meet him, did you know him before he joined
the Highway Patrol? Did you know him in high school or
where did ya'll meet?
LL: Yes we met in junior high school about the ninth grade I
think. He was a grade ahead of me. We would see each other
occasionally. We started dating when he was a senior and I
was a junior. When he graduated he joined the Marine Corp.
We continued our relationship and got married after I
graduated from high school.
BH: So I can gather that you and Trooper Lofton lived in the
BH: Can you tell me what town that was?
LL: Lake City, Florida.
BH: Did you know the Lofton family?
LL: Yes I did.
BH: Prior to him...meeting him in high school?
LL: Yes he had a couple of cousins that were teachers at the
school that we attended so I knew the Lofton family. I also
knew his grandparents because they were farmers like my
parents and they knew each other. They were all friends.
We all belonged to the same clubs.
BH: Do you know whether or not the Lofton family was originally
raised or did they migrate here another state?
LL: As far as I know they were originally Floridians. The
grandfather lived in Ocala, Florida, I believe.
BH: So after Trooper Lofton graduated from high school he went
off to the Marine Corp. and I understand you said he served
four years in the Marines and got an honorable discharge?
BH: Upon completion of his tour of duty what did he do after he
got out of the Marines?
LL: We came back to Lake City, Florida and like I said he
applied for different positions at the state employment
office. You know how they give you a list of available
state jobs. He started working as a correctional officer in
Lake Bulter, Florida.
BH: Did ya'll move to Lake Butler?
LL: No we didn't. He commuted.
BH: At the time in that period of time you stayed in Lake City?
LL: Yes I did.
BH: How many children do you and Trooper Lofton have?
LL: We have two children.
BH: Can I have their names please?
LL: Alaric Lofton who is 23 and Corey Lofton who is 13.
BH: Will you spell their names for me for the record?
LL: Yes. Alaric is spelled A-l-a-r-i-c and Corey is spelled
BH: Can you recall when Trooper Lofton got accepted to come on
to the Highway Patrol?
LL: The actual acceptance I am not sure of. His employment date
was May of 1970 and you know the length of time it takes to
go through the testing and the interviews.
BH: Do you recall who his background investigator was?
LL: I sure don't.
BH: Did you get a chance to meet the background investigator?
Did he come and talk to you?
LL: Yes he talked to me. I can't remember his name though.
BH: What was your feeling when your husband told you that he
wanted to become a Florida Highway Patrolman? Did you have
any concern for his health?
LL: I was a little reluctant because I knew that they did not
have any blacks and if they did employ the blacks it was
going to be rough going at first, but knowing Al I knew if
anybody could do it he could.
BH: So Trooper Lofton was accepted by the Highway Patrol and he
went to the Florida Highway Patrol Academy in Tallahassee.
Did he relate any of the details on what kind of training he
went through while he was in the Academy? How he was
accepted being one of the first blacks to go through the
Academy in an organization that was predominately white or
in males before?
LL: No he didn't. He never complained. He never really said he
had any problems. Growing up the way he did and being in
the armed forces associating with white people really wasn't
unusual and he never mentioned any problems he had.
BH: How many times did you get a chance to see him during his
training at the FHP Academy?
LL: I think I went up once. They had a break, at which time I
went to Tallahassee to visit him for a weekend.
BH: Okay. Upon him completing the Florida Highway Patrol
Academy, what was his first duty station? Do you recall?
BH: Did you move to Miami with him when he first moved here as a
LL: No I did not. He moved a month before I moved down. I was
working and had to wait for a transfer to come through. He
lived with some friends for a month and then I moved down
and we continued to stay with the friends until September
when we bought our own house and moved into it.
BH: Was he assigned to Troop E, Miami or Troop K, Miami?
LL: Troop E, Miami.
BH: Do you recall any details on his first day reporting to
Troop E station that he related to you?
LL: No not really. It was a trying day for both of us because I
was new in the city and of course I got lost and he was
worried about me finding my way around in Miami. Other than
the usual anxieties you have the first day on a new job he
didn't relay .....
BH: Do you recall whether or not...how long his training period
was the time he had to actually ride with another trooper?
LL: I don't know because right after that and I went back to
Lake City so I really don't know.
BH: Do you recall any details of....did you get a chance to meet
the training officer?
LL: No I didn't because I went back to Lake City. He would call
me and tell me how things were going but I never did meet
his training officer.
BH: Did he express any concerns during the time he was calling
you while in training? Did he feel that he was getting the
proper training and being dealt with fairly?
LL: Yes as far as I know. He never said anything about a
problem if he had one. He thought he was doing quite well
in learning the city and policies. He was inexperienced on
the road of course because he had not been to the Academy.
There was a lot to learn but he was always proud of his
accomplishments. He felt that he was doing quite well. I
guess that must have been feedback from his training
BH: Let's go back to when he was in the Training Academy, did he
indicate any time that he was a platoon leader or head of
any squads while he was at the Academy?
LL: I can't remember.
BH: Alright. So when you moved to Miami he moved .....finished
his training and he was on the road on his own?
LL: No he was on the road. He had not been to the Academy. He
was on the road about six or seven months before he went to
BH: Six or seven months?
LL: Yes, he didn't go the Academy until like January of 71.
BH: But at the time he went to the Academy he had already been
out there working as a state trooper?
BH: How did the community accept his as a trooper those seven
months? Did he come home and express any problems he had
during those seven months he was there in Miami?
LL: No they seem to welcome him with open arms especially the
black community. They were very proud to have him. I'm /
sure he had a few little altercations with some people but I
don't think it was because he was black. I think it was
because he was a trooper and usually you know when you stop
someone it is because they have violated the law and you are
going to give them a ticket. He never mentioned any
problems he had.
BH: So during the time he was.......seven months he had no
problems.....did he come home and express any problems with
anyone at the station? You know on how he was being
accepted from his peers and co-workers?
LL: No he didn't. You have to understand, I guess you would
have to know him and know his personality, he just seemed to
get along with everybody.
BH: Okay. The records indicate that he was involved in a couple
of accidents while he was a trooper some of them were not
his fault. Did he ever relate any stress from being
involved in patrol car accidents that you know of?
LL: No other than the normal stress or anxiety after having an
accident. He was upset that it happened. He was very proud
of his car and he took a personal interest in it as if it
were his property and of course he was upset if it was dirty
or dented or anything else. He did have about three
accidents close together, within seven or eight months and
that disturbed him. It was like an omen you have one then
two and three.
BH: Okay Trooper Lofton was appointed as a FHP Division equal
opportunity representative which involved him in many
personal appearance radio and TV. Can you tell me about
this part of his career?
LL: He was really proud of that. He loved talking about the
Highway Patrol. He was elated when asked to be a member of
the equal opportunity committee. He felt that he was
contributing something to the Department as a black man.
BH: Well I can relate back to my days of when I came here as a
rookie, I had to go to him a couple of times and talk to him
myself so I know that he was easy to talk to and he could
easily help you solve your problem because even though when
I came here I had a black training officer I did have
problems with my black training officer and I had to go to
him to try to get because he was the senior trooper in the
troop and get him to try to help me make it through the
training period with my training officer. He really helped
and guided me in the right path.
LL: He was very objective.
BH: Trooper Lofton was involved in many activities during his
career. One was an accident in which a car ran into the bay
in Miami and other troopers tried to save the driver and
passenger. Trooper Lofton and others received a commentary
letter from the Mayor of Miami Beach. Do you recall that
LL: Yes, very well. It was in February and cold. He called me
shortly after it happened. He was still soaking wet and
cold. When I asked what happened he said he jumped in the
bay. It didn't mean much to me at that time. Later we took
a ride. over to the bridge that he jumped from. It was so
high it scared me just thinking about him jumping from that
high bridge. He was very brave.
BH: Being a wife of ...taking a new role as a wife of a police
officer especially state trooper you are probably one of the
first black women to be a wife of a state trooper cause Al
was considered the first black to be on the Highway Patrol
and so how do you feel yourself personally knowing that a
lot of times he was out there by himself and of course I
know you know that troopers can ride (unk) have a limited
number of troopers in this troop so how did you feel? What
were your concerns?
LL: I was always very nervous especially if he was late, but I
got to know the dispatchers and at that time they had some
very good dispatchers at Troop E and if he was 15-20 minutes
late they would always call me and say "Lena he is fine he
is tied up with an accident" or "he had to go to the jail."
It was great knowing that if he did get in trouble there was
someone there that could call for help, but you know, like
any policeman's wife you are nervous. You hear of
activities and you hear an officer is down or an officer
just got shot, you are upset until you hear from them but
like I said the dispatchers were very nice. All I had to do
if I wanted to know something was call them. They were very
BH: Did Trooper Lofton participate in the Florida Highway Patrol
homicide program or did he participate in the riot squad
that the Highway Patrol had during that time they called it
the riot squad, did he participate in either one of those?
LL: Yes he was a homicide investigator and I think he was on the
riot squad I am not sure. Did they have it then? The riot
squad? I know he was a member of the color guard.
BH: How did he feel about the homicide program in the Highway
Patrol? Did he enjoy it?
LL: Not really. It was a lot of work and he was exposed to such
gory (unk) scenes. He was always depressed after working a
homicide and then of course the paperwork that was required
sometimes he would complain about so much and so many
details and of course I would have to help him out sometimes
with typing and like I said before he was very particular so
he wanted his reports to be perfect. He worked hard on
BH: Trooper Lofton was also appointed to serve on the interview
board for the new FHP applicants. Do you have any memories
of this involvement?
LL: Not really, just that he was excited when they asked him to
serve on the board. He really felt that he was making
progress and had been accepted because he was asked to serve
in that capacity.
BH: When...I want to go back in his career during the 1980
disturbance I know that was a trying time for Miami and
being a black state trooper I know at that time that were
not that many black state troopers assigned to Troop E. How
did he feel in that situation? (Unk) in one sense as a
black state trooper he had to enforce the laws.
LL: He had feelings of ambivalence being a black person in the
community he felt that he should listen to them and of
course he understood what they were going through and why
they were doing what they were doing, but at the same time
being a law enforcement officer he had to uphold the law and
then again for Al this wasn't hard to do because he was
always objective. He was always reminding you of what's
right. He was empathic to your situation....he would always
remind you "but you know you can't do it that way if its not
BH: Okay during the riots I know that....by knowing the area I
know your home is kind of .... your home in that area is
close to (unk) was going on. Did it effect your home
life? Your safety? That he felt your safety while you were
working? Did he ask ya'll to move out or did ya'll stay
through the whole ordeal?
LL: We stayed through the whole ordeal but of course it did
restrict our activities. At the time we had....the two
boys, one was a teenager and we had to keep him inside. We
didn't go anywhere so it restricted our activities and he
worried about us when he went off to work so it was really a
BH: Along with other troopers he participated in the police
olympics at least once. Do you recall any of those details
about those (unk)?
LL: Yes, he enjoyed that. He participated more than once but
the one in Jacksonville is the one I remember because I
attended it also. He played basketball for them. I don't
know what year it was. He also ran track. He was very
athletic. The team was not the best because players were
spread out all over the state and it was impossible for them
to practice together so for that reason the team was not the
best. He did express some concern reference the
Department's lack of interest. He and the other troopers
had to use their annual leave time. Since they were
representing the Department they felt they should have at
least been given administrative leave.
BH: When I came here in 82 I know Trooper Lofton had been ill.
I didn't get a chance to know that much about the illness.
He was making a great comeback from what I understand from
what people told from the way he was and the point he was
when I came in 82. What kind of stress did it put on the
family as a wife? I know the tension on you because I know
he loved being a state trooper and his activity of being a
trooper I understand was greatly cut and he had to stay in a
lot but how did he.....was there any feelings or concerns
there during that time?
LL: Oh yes. First of all he had multiple sclerosis which was
diagnosed in 81 and that is a disease that creates more
stress than most diseases such as cancer where they can do a
biopsy or run a test and come back and say yes its positive
you have it. Multiple sclerosis is different they have to
rule out everything else so that alone was a lot of stress
because you go through the test and then the waiting period
and then the doctor comes in and says "I don't think its
whatever we tested you for so it must be multiple
sclerosis." That alone was very stressful and the fact that
it usually hits you in your prime between 20 and 40. Of
course he was just climbing in his career and.making plans
for the future.
BH: Do you recall how old he was when the time he got sick? It
was in 81?
LL: He was 34-35 when he was diagnosed but before that we had
early signs of the illness however, we didn't know at the
time what it was. He had trouble with the sight in one of
his eyes but of course he handled that because we thought it
was just something minor and it would pass. We did not know
at that time that it was related to multiple sclerosis. We
had some concern at that time because being a trooper and
losing the sight in one eye is something he would have to
adjust to which he did. As far as stress in relation to the
job of course we were concerned because multiple sclerosis
is a debilitating disease and you have to be in good
physical condition to be a trooper but he kept trying. The
doctor suggested some medication which he was eager to try
in order to keep him on his feet. He was.a severe multiple
sclerosis patient who had very extensive nerve damage so
when he had a bout with the disease he would be in bed I
mean bedridden he couldn't move. He would get treatment and
come back 85 to 90 percent. Most times he went back to
work and worked for six or seven months before he had
another attack. This was added stress because we never knew
when he would have an attack and you sort of put your life
on hold. You don't know whether to take vacation this year
or not and of course he was using his sick leave up and that
was a concern of ours because he was running out of sick
leave and when you are the main bread winner and your check
is short a couple of months there is concern about the
welfare of the family so of course we had all of those
BH: How did the Department address the problem? Did they...were
they sympathetic....did they try to help? Can you name a
couple of people in Troop E that really showed great concern
that really stood by him in the crisis?
LL: Yes, well actually the Department was very sympathetic. We
had several officers who wanted to give sick leave but this
was not a policy of the Department...so of course they were
not allowed. Some even offered to work an extra day to give
him the time. There were some people who were very
supportive...Peterson, Ray Peterson, Captain was his rank at
that time I don't know if he was a Lieutenant or a Sergeant.
BH: He was a Sergeant. Sergeant Ray Peterson in the
investigation section at that time.
LL: He was very supportive. After Al was hospitalized Peterson
would come by everyday I mean every morning he was there and
there were others, Sergeant Wippel, I think he was a
Sergeant at that time, he was very supportive.
BH: First Sergeant Wippel. C. J. Wippel.
LL: Yes. I don't like to give names because I will probably
forget someone that was very important and supportive. Of
course Burkett was very supportive. I don't know what his
rank was at that time. Was he Colonel then? He made
Colonel I know...
BH: At that time I think he was Captain Burkett or Lieutenant
Burkett. .Right now he is the Director of the Florida
Highway Patrol. Director Burkett.
LL: Well we had known him since '70 from the time we came here
and he kept in touch and was very supportive. The Florida
Highway Patrol Auxiliary was also very supportive.
BH: So you can say that the Highway Patrol really helped ya'll
through a trying time?
Yes, yes. If you recall they sponsored a big picnic for
Al's benefit that was very successful and they also played
basketball games against the Miami Dolphins to raise money
to help us. They were very supportive.
BH: I know during the time when it came close...did Trooper
Lofton ever say that if he could do his life over would he
change anything or would he go in the same direction he
went? Was there any talk or anything spoken during the last
days that you can recall about the Patrol?
LL: Nothing specific. He did continue to talk to some of the
new troopers that were coming on and one in particular was
Bernard Washington he used to give him advice even from his
hospital bed. He would tell him that the main thing was "to
do a good job and make me proud of you." He never regretted
going on the Highway Patrol and he was very proud of the job
he did, until the end he was very proud.
BH: I know the Patrol
Florida to carry.
you feel that has
out about Trooper
is proud of him. He set some of the
for a state trooper in the state of
Close to the end is there anything that
not been covered that should be brought
Lofton's career with the Florida Highway
<* - A
LL: Nothing much. I feel that maybe we should mention that they
have dedicated the Troop E building to him (unk)....that was
a great (unk) recognition....for a black trooper. He would
have been so proud to know that this was done in his honor.
BH: You are talking about the Troop E headquarters at 1011 N.W.
111th Avenue in Miami?
LL: Yes I am.
BH: Is there anything else you would like to say about Trooper
LL: No....that's about all I have to say.
BH: This ends the interview with Mrs. Lena Lofton the wife of
late Trooper Al Lofton.
BH: I would like to add and thank Mrs. Lena Lofton for her
cooperation in this interview for the Highway Patrol Oral
Project on the behalf of the Director of the Florida Highway
Patrol...Director Burkett and his staff. We really
appreciate the time that you have given us today. Thank