Title: Otis L. McArthur
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007794/00001
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Title: Otis L. McArthur
Series Title: Otis L. McArthur
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Bibliographic ID: UF00007794
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MAY 5, 1989


J i


RG: Good morning. I'm Russell Garris with the Florida Highway Patrol, and

we're interviewing Otis L. McArthur that was an original member in 1939

for the oral history of the Florida Highway Patrol. The 50th

anniversary that'll be near the end of 1989. We are at the Panama City

Florida Highway Patrol station. It's 11:09 AM on May the 5th. For the

record, Sir, what is your full name?

OM: Otis Lee McArthur.

RG: Where were you born?

OM: Pensacola, Florida.

RG: In what year?

OM: 1907.

RG: Okay. Where did you go to school?

OM: Pensacola.

RG: And, did you go to college after high school?

OM: I finished high school and took several college courses in the field of

law enforcement.


RG: What prompted you to go on the Highway Patrol?

OM: Well, I just always liked the look of a police officer and always wanted

to be one. And I guess I followed in my father's footsteps. He was a

law enforcement officer.

RG: In Pensacola?

OM: Pensacola.

RG: Okay, did you do any other jobs before you became a trooper?

OM: Yes Sir. I worked for the Sheriff's office some too.

RG: You did, Pensacola?

OM: As a jailer, wasn't any outside work. But I enjoyed that.

RG: Okay, now you were one of the original members. How did you learn about

the Highway Patrol that was going to begin in '39, and what made you


OM: Well, I happened to be in a race with a fellow, Edwin Holesberry, for

State Representative, and he won. He came by one day and asked me about

running over to Tallahassee with him, to see about getting on the

Highway Patrol.


RG: Okay, you say he ran for office?

OM: He ran for Representative and was elected. And I wasn't elected.

RG: And you ran against him.

OM: Yes

RG: Okay, and that was in 1939, or '38?

OM: May of '38.

RG: '38. And that for what office?

OM: Representative.

RG: For Escambia County area?

OM: Yes. We rode to Tallahassee and talked to Colonel Kirkman. He said

come back in about five years. Everything was filled up.

RG: Oh, that was in '39?

OM: '39.

RG: Okay, so how, what changed that?


OM: Well, I guess they didn't want to lose a good man.

RG: Okay.

OM: And, I had a good friend who knew the Governor and he put in a good word

for me.

RG: Well that was not unusual for a number of years. Certainly at the

outset of the Patrol, because of so many people applying. Where did

they first send you, you went to school in Bradenton. Is that right?

OM: Yes, I went to Bradenton to school and then I went to Titusville for my

first assignment.

RG: In Bradenton can you remind me and tell me what you remember about the

Broken Spoke Club and how that started in the first school. Do you

remember that?

OM: No, I can't.

RG: Okay, well we'll talk to you about it later.. Anything outstanding in

the school? Do you remember anything in the school?

OM: It was a rough school. We had to stay four to a room in a motel. And

if we wanted to study at night we had to get in the bathroom and turn


the light on. We didn't have a Beautyrest mattress either; we had cots,

but we all enjoyed it.

RG: Okay.

OM: I don't know if you are aware that 8,000 people wanted those first jobs,

and only 32 men were hired.

RG: That's right, I understand there was a lot of people that wanted them.

Do you remember some of the instructors in the school? Colonel Kirkman.

OM: Colonel Kirkman, yes Sir.

RG: And, Colonel Mingle from Ohio.

OM: Colonel Mingle, yes.

RG: And then you were sent to Melbourne you say?

OM: Titusville.

RG: Titusville. And, how long did you stay there?

OM: About a year.


RG: Okay, can you kind of give me a chronology of where you went and where

you were stationed?

OM: Well, I was stationed in Titusville which had a territory of 81 miles

and the longest county in the state. When we left out in the morning we

stopped by the Sheriff's office and told them what direction we were

patrolling that day and they would call service stations along that

route if they needed us and we'd stop and check in to see if we had any


RG: You didn't have radios at that time?

OM: That's all the communication we had.

RG: Yes.

OM: You'd go across the little wooden bridge.


That was known as Merritt

RG: Merritt Island is where Cape Kennedy is now. At that time it was woods

and swamps.

OM: If we had a day off, we'd go over there and shoot ducks. It happened

very seldom, that we had a day off.


RG: What did you shoot them with?

OM: 12-gauge shotgun.

RG: Ha, ha, ha. Okay, did you have. There was a station in Orlando at that


OM: No, Sir.

RG: There was not.


Where was, you had no communications on radio.

OM: The only way to contact Tallahassee was by phone.

RG: Tallahassee was the only one.

OM: Our daily reports were simple then we identified our unit and reported

our time of departure in the AM and the direction we were headed.

RG: That was the daily report.

OM: That was the daily report.

RG: And you mailed that in or each day.


OM: Every day.

RG: Okay, and then after you were stationed in Titusville for, for awhile,

where was your next station then?

OM: I was transferred to Marianna.

RG: Okay.

OM: I stayed there about two years and I was transferred to Camp Blanding.

RG: Camp Blanding. Was it anything of those transfers at your request or

did they just normally change you every now and then.

OM: Yes, Sir. I requested a move from Titusville to Marianna. I was

sitting on the side of the road one day and got down close to the Santa

Rosa County line. Pig Green came by. That's our Captain. I said,

Captain, if you ever get a chance I'd like to get out of here. I'm a

long ways from home. And in about a month I got a letter that I could

move to Marianna, Florida.

RG: And then you went to Camp Blanding?

OM: Camp Blanding. That was some rough times.


RG: Besides Green was the Captain. Where did he live?

OM: Tallahassee.

RG: In Tallahassee. Did you have any other supervisors closer than that?

And who else did you report to or talk to about any problems you might

have besides Green?

OM: Well, J. Hall was there and Smith was there.

RG: And, Hall, did he start with you all at the same time?

OM: Yes, Sir.

RG: In, in 1939. And Green was already with the State Road Department. Is

that right. Or did he start at that rank.

OM: That's right.

RG: He was with the State Road Department. When were you first promoted to,

to supervisor at rank?

OM: Oh, when I was at Camp Blanding I was promoted to Buck Sergeant.

RG: What, what year was that approximately?

PAGE 10 '

OM: Well, about, I'd say '42 I was promoted when I was at Camp Blanding.

I'd say '42.

RG: Was that to Sergeant, or, they didn't have any Corporals then, did

they? That was to Sergeant, is that right?

OM: That's right.

RG: And were you moved, or did you stay in Camp Blanding?

OM: I stayed in Camp Blanding.

RG: What territory did you have then?

OM: Well, we had part of Gainesville and part of Starke and half of


RG: Ha, ha, ha. A big area, huh?

OM: A lot of mornings we'd be up until two o'clock. Clyde would take one

way and go by Lake City and I'd take one and go by Gainesville. That's

when the Army was on maneuvers. And we might get back in that night in

time to go to bed, or sometimes to turn around and go again.

RG: Those were during the war years.

PAGE 11 '

OM: War years.

RG: Were you married when you went on the Highway Patrol?

OM: Yes, yes, Sir.

RG: And, did you have any children?

OM: No.

RG: Okay, did you later have any children?

OM: One daughter.

RG: Okay, and what year was she born?

OM: '45, now.

RG: Okay, all right and your family moved with you each place that you went.

OM: Not at first. I was in Titusville and there wasn't any place to live.

When we were in Camp Blanding and my wife moved down there with me, and

if we wanted something to eat we'd drive over to a little place close to

Gainesville. We didn't have any place to stay when we were troopers

there. We stayed in barracks.


RG: What barracks was that. The Camp Blanding barracks.

OM: No, our barracks. Over at the Highway Patrol station.

RG: There was a station where then?

OM: The Army built us barracks and office space for our headquarters.

RG: Okay, all right. What sort of salary did you start out at.

OM: We started out at $125/month and I got a ten dollar raise when I made


RG: You got to be Sergeants.

OM: Yeah, yeah. Well, it wasn't much, wasn't very much. I can't remember

just what it was back that far.

RG: Probably about a hundred and twenty-five, hundred and thirty-five

dollars a month.

OM: About that, I'd say.

RG: And, what, what, you lived in the barracks there, but in some other

areas did you have to rent an apartment or what did you do?


OM: In Titusville I did. Yes, Sir.

RG: What sort of rent did you have to pay there?

OM: Well I don't remember too much about that but when I moved to Marianna

they had, a lady who had built four new garage apartments. And she

rented them to us. There was two of us. We rented 'em for three

dollars apiece, a week.

RG: Three dollars a week.

OM: We went across the street and got good home cooked meals for thirty-five


RG: Thirty-five cent meals. Things have changed a little bit now.

OM: In the morning we'd go down to the bus station and get a donut and a cup

of coffee free.

RG: Okay, now whenever you worked in your first station in Titusville what

sort of auto, did you have a car or a motorcycle?

OM: I had a Chevrolet to start with.

RG: A 1940?

OM: Yes, I guess it was, but then I went to Jacksonville and picked up a

PAGE 14 '

Ford because the Chevys just didn't hold up well.

RG: And that was in what year, '39, or I mean '40 or?

OM: About '40.

RG: About '40. Who was the Sheriff then, do you remember who it was?

OM: Bill Williams.

RG: Bill Williams. He was there for a number of years after that. Called

him Whispering Bill didn't we.

OM: Whispering Bill? No he's a country singer!

RG: Ha, Ha.

OM: He never wore a gun or a badge, never did no, and had one motorcycle cop

named Trigger Griggs.

RG: Now he worked for the Sheriff's office.

OM: No, he worked for the County as a County Patrolman, but he worked

through the Sheriff's office.


RG: Through the Sheriff's office.

OM: And I lived with Bill, well, I lived with Trigger when I was there. My

rent was pretty cheap.

RG: Okay, did you ever have to ride a motorcycle any time during your


OM: Only in training but not on the road. As a matter of fact, I got the

last car assigned before they got to the motorcycles.

RG: You didn't. You were lucky, huh?

OM: Well, yeah. We was all out there at the school and they was calling out

the cars. Twenty-six cars. The rest of them were motorcycles. And

plenty of them.

RG: So there were 32 of you all that graduated and 26 got automobiles and

that means six got motorcycles.

OM: When they called the 25th one I didn't get it.


Twenty-six one is

RG: And you got the last car? Okay.

OM: We had one poor boy there who went to Key West on that motorcycle.


PAGE 16 "

RG: Hancock, Clint Hancock? Yeah, all right. When you, you were a Sergeant

in Camp Blanding how long were you a Sergeant there, 'till about?

OM: Went to Panama City and then they promoted me to be First Sergeant and I

was in charge of all supplies from Tallahassee to Pensacola.

RG: Tallahassee to Pensacola, but you lived in Panama City. Okay, and what,

what then happened.

OM: We didn't have a headquarters in PC we worked out of the jail then

they set up headquarters in Chipley in the State Road Department down in

the basement.

RG: In Chipley.

Yes, Sir.

RG: But it had been in Panama City.

OM: No, we only worked out of the jail. They just made me First Sergeant

and transferred me. That's when I got transferred to Chipley.

RG: To Chipley, Okay.

OM: And then when we bought this building here in PC we moved back to PC.

PAGE 17 *

RG: So when you retired, you retired here in Panama City? Okay, what was

you rank at that time.

OM: Lieutenant.

RG: Okay, and.

OM: The biggest mistake I ever made was when I left the rank of First


RG: You, mean you rather would have been a First Sergeant?

OM: Nobody bothered you as a Sergeant. When you put those bars on your

shoulders they shoot at you. Even old friends change some expected

you to be hard on them and others expected special favors.

RG: That's right. Now, is there anything that you may not have covered

about your career with the Patrol that was outstanding to you. In other

words some things that may have happened to you or a certain person that

you may have been involved in apprehending or anything like that?

OM: A fellow killed a Sheriff in Defuniak Springs.

RG: In Defuniak Springs?

OM: Defuniak Springs. We were all called up there.


RG: What year was this approximately?

OM: About '45.

RG: About '45.

OM: We hunted everywhere for that man, all day and all that night. And the

next night about eleven o'clock we walked through a yard and we heard a

racket in the bushes. Our suspect was hiding in an outdoor john he

had been hiding there all day and night.

RG: Is that right?

OM: We placed him in the back of our car. He was pitiful. There were a lot

of bad wrecks then and because of poor communications it was harder to

get to the people to help them.

RG: Okay, are any people, in other words you started off with the original

32 members. Is anybody that's outstanding within that school that has

been a friend of yours all through these years, or Captain Carlan?

OM: Clyde has been a good friend since the beginning.

RG: All right, and who was the Director, the first Director of the Highway

Patrol. Do you remember who that was? Who was that?

OM: Bill Reid.

PAGE 19 '

RG: Okay, and but wasn't it Reid to start with? And then Kirkman was the.

OM: You're right, you're right, Director then, Kirkman I'm sorry. You're


RG: Okay, who was the Director when you retired. Was that that Colonel

Kirkman still? Okay, is anything you'd like to add then?

OM: No I enjoyed every bit of it, and I made a lot of friends I think. And

I treated everybody like I'd want to be treated. And I know I made some

enemies, but I tried not to.

RG: And, you'd do it again.

OM: I'd do it again.

RG: Did, did you run, what happened after you retired? Did you, did you run

for office here?

OM: I ran for Sheriff and got defeated.

RG: What year was that approximately?

OM: '59.


??: '50.

RG: '49 or '50.

??: '59.

OM: '59, excuse me, I'm sorry.

RG: Okay, '59.

OM: '59.

RG: Okay, but you originally started off before you went on the Highway

Patrol running for the state representative's office and you didn't

receive that, so you went on the Highway Patrol. Then after you retired

you ran for Sheriff. Ha, ha. Okay, have you done any other things

since, since you retired.

OM: Yes, I served as Acting Rd. Superintendent for the Bay Co. Road

Department. Worked with the beach police and then worked for Tullis

Easterling, Sheriff of Bay Co., for ten years as a civil Deputy.

RG: Was that in the Sheriff's office?

OM: Ten years. Yes.

RG: Here in Bay County.


OM: At Long Beach until they incorporated it as it is today.

RG: What city was that?

OM: Long Beach.

RG: Panama City Beach.

OM: Long Beach. It is Panama City Beach now, but it was Long Beach, and

other little communities at the beach separate little "cities".

RG: Long Beach.

OM: Now they incorporated it into Panama City Beach.

RG: But you were the Chief of Police there? And, how many people did you

have working for you there?

OM: Three.

RG: Three. And what year did you retire from that, about?

OM: I stayed there as Chief of Police about two years. They incorporated

and then I went on up to the other place as a radio operator for Chief


PAGE 22 ,

RG: On Panama City Beach now? Okay. All right, and.

OM: After I retired I was a Road Superintendent for awhile. I've been into

everything in the world.

RG: With the State Road Department?

OM: No, county, yeah.

RG: The County Road Department here in Bay County?

OM: Uh huh.

RG: Okay, well I was certainly enjoyed to you and I know that it's an honor

to have talked to one of the members that was original with the Highway

Patrol. And you had a good and long career with the Patrol. And the

present Director, Colonel, or either Director Bobby Burkett is proud

that we were able to talk to you people and I know he is appreciative of

you participating with us. Is there anything you'd like to add at this


OM: I'm just proud that I could be one of the bunch that you got to talk

to. I hope that after all these years I have played a small part in

making the Highway Patrol the professional law enforcement agency it is



RG: You referring to.

OM: Right, the thirty-niners.

RG: Thirty-niners, all right. Thank you very much, and we'll conclude the

interview at this time.

OM: Thank you very much.

RG: Okay we'll continue asking one more question of Captain McArthur about

the Panama City station. Can you tell me how that came into being?

OM: Yes, Sir. This was a government building, part of the shipyard. The

over here. And, I, I, we had a friend by the name of Forest Holland who

was a Representative. And I got with Forest Holland and for one dollar

we got all this government property.

RG: The property that the station, the old station and the new station now

is on. That was from the Army or?

OM: The federal government.

RG: From the government. And that was.

OM: The shipyard. In other words this was a part of the shipyard and they

had barracks all over these woods out here.

PAGE 24 '

RG: Approximately what year was that? The best that you remember.

??: Late '40s or early '50s.

OM: Late '40s.

RG: Were you a Lieutenant here then or a First Sergeant here then?

OM: First Sergeant.

RG: First Sergeant. So you helped them obtain the property for the station

and, and.

OM: I don't guess they would have had a station here then if the two of us

hadn't gotten with Forest Holland a representative friend of ours and

went to work on it.

??: He's working out of the Sheriff's office here.

OM: And like I say we got the whole thing for $1.00.

RG: And that was Forest Holland?

OM: Uh huh.



RG: Okay.

OM: State representative.

??: Representative.

OM: Representative, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

RG: Okay, thank you.

??: Switch it over here just a moment.

RG: Captain McArthur during your career though we didn't cover the part

about the driver's license test. Did you give them from the start? And

the locations where you were stationed?

OM: The first place was when I came to Panama City.

RG: You didn't give them before?

OM: We didn't give them, we weren't giving any tests then we just like the

Captain said, the Major said awhile ago, we gave them a driver's license

and no test, but I don't remember what year they started the test.

RG: Okay, and you worked.

I, ,PAGE 26

RG: You worked out of the Sheriff's office in Bay County with your radio.

Is that right?

OM: That's right.

RG: And.

OM: And then we got our own. Got one in those old cars that is.

RG: Okay, but up to that time they contacted you through the Sheriff's

office and you received your calls from them. Okay.

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