Title: Lena Loften
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1vI ,


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

same town?



LL: Yes.



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?



LL: Yes.



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

C-o-r-e-y.


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?



LL: Miami.



BH: Did you move to Miami with him when he first moved here as a

trooper?



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

officer.



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

the Academy.



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?



LL: Yes.








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

incident?



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

cooperative.



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

them.



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

right."



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

trying time.



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

concerns.



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?








LL:


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

highest standards

Florida to carry.

you feel that has

out about Trooper

Patrol?


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

Lofton?



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

you.



cd




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