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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
DIVISION OF FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL
50TH ANNIVERSARY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interview with COLONEL JAMES ELDRIGE BEACH
Employed with FHP 8-26-51 and 3-1-57
Interviewed by RUSS GARRIS
Date Interviewed FEBRUARY 15, 1989
My name is Russ Garris of the Florida Highway Patrol and it is
February 15, 1989, and we are at the Eastpoint Highway Patrol Station
interviewing Eldrige Beach, a former Colonel of the Florida Highway
RG: Colonel Beach for the record, could you please state your full
name for us?
JEB: James Eldrige Beach
RG: Where were you born?
JEB: St. Petersburg, Florida
RG: And where did you go to school?
JEB: The grammar, junior high and high school, I attended public
schools in St. Petersburg but after a three year tour in the
United States Marine Corps. during World War II, I returned from
the South Pacific and attended the University of Florida in
Gainesville for four years where I was on a football
RG:_ Okay and you went to the University of Florida and you played
football. What position did you play?
JEB: I was the running back.
RG: And you enjoyed that immensely?
JEB: Yes, I started athletics in grammar school, particularly
football and basketball and I wasn't a good enough basketball
player in college but I played football at Florida.
RG: Of course, you played football in high school. Did you play the
JEB: Yes, I did and I was fortunate enough to make All State a couple
of years in St. Pete.
RG: Actually, you attended the University of Florida on a
JEB: Yes, I did.
RG: That's good, that's fine. And then what did you do after you
got out of the University of Florida?
JEB: Well, during the summer while attending the University, they
would hire some of the football players and try to help them
with their finances, the State would hire you at different jobs,
legitimate jobs and I worked, just by chance, with the Beverage
Department, and that's how I became involved in law enforcement
which eventually led me to the Florida Highway Patrol.
RG: So, one of your first jobs was with the Beverage Department,
with the State. Was that in the Gainesville area or where?
JEB: No, it was a statewide job to start with, "I was an investigator
and I worked statewide. Then later on, I became a district
supervisor which would entail something like ten or eleven
counties that I was in charge of.
RG: Where were you living when you first started with the Beverage
JEB: Well, when I first started, I was living in Gainesville going to
the University of Florida but my first assignment with the
Highway Patrol was in 1951 in Tallahassee and when I was offered
the job with the Beverage Department as a district supervisor
from a trooper, that was quite a promotion. So with that
greener grass looking me in the face, I went with the Beverage
Department in 1951.
RG: Let's go back a little bit, when you went in the service,
how old were you then?
RG: And you were in the Marines?
RG: Where did you take your training?
JEB: Paris Island, South Carolina, and then from there Camp LeJeune,
RG: And what years did that cover?
JEB: That was 1944 to late 46 and when I left Camp LeJeune, I was
shipped to the South Pacific where I was at Guadalcanal, Guam,
and I was wounded in the battle of Okinawa.
RG: In Okinawa?
RG: Where were you wounded?
JEB: It wasn't serious, it was in the arm, from a Japanese grenade
fragment, it wasn't serious, just a fragment hit me in the arm
RG: So you recovered and continued to serve there?
JEB: I just wrapped it up in the field and kept going.
RG: Okay, then when you came back in 46, you were mustered out
JEB: In North Carolina, Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.
RG: Went back there and then you went to college after that?
JEB: Well, I had half of a year of high school to complete so I went
back to St. Petersburg High and was one of the assistant student
coaches so to speak. I got my high school diploma and then I
went to the University of Florida in 1947.
RG: Good, what were you majoring or minoring in at the University of
Florida in your studies?
JEB: I was majoring in physical education and minoring in education.
I was going to coach and teach.
RG: Then when you started with the Beverage Department that started
you off on police work?
JEB: Yes, that's correct.
RG: What prompted you to enter the Highway Patrol?
JEB: Well, I thought they were always kind of special, I'd see a
patrol car and I knew a friend, he wasn't a friend, by a fellow
by the name of Jake Raulerson, you know that was on the Patrol
for many years. I met him in St. Petersburg after in fact
he stopped me one night coming from Gainesville to St. Pete for
an improper pass on a solid line and Jake stopped me and I just
always admired the Patrol and thought they were the TOPS in law
RG: Where you with the Beverage Department when he stopped you?
JEB: No, I was a student at the University of Florida.
RG: Okay, what Patrol school did you go to, do you remember what
number it was or where it was?
JEB: The 8th.
RG: The 8th and where was it held?
JEB: At Eglin Field, Florida.
RG: And how long did it cover?
JEB: I think it was just eight weeks back then.
RG: Can you remember some of the people that were in charge of the
school, the instructors?
JEB: Well, yes, Jimmy Dickens, J. W. Hagans, who was later a troop
commander in West Palm Beach, Captain Jay Hall had a course over
RG: What sort of barracks did you have?
JEB: We were in the army barracks, just long army barracks.
RG: Long army barracks, can you remember some of the people that
went to school with you, some of the prominent ones that stayed?
JEB: Roger Collar, Chuck Saunders, and
RG: And of course, Colonel Collar was later a lieutenant colonel,
JEB: Yes, a deputy director, an excellent law enforcement officer,
really a man of high character. I have always had a lot of
admiration for Roger Collar who was a former school teacher from
RG: And then, when you got out of Patrol school, you broke in with
someone, where did they send you then?
JEB: To Tallahassee.
RG: And who did you ride with?
JEB: Bill Joyce, who was at the time, while I was riding with Bill,
he was considering running for sheriff, which he eventually did
and consequently was elected sheriff of Leon County.
RG: And he served a few years as sheriff?
JEB: I think he was three terms.
RG: Three terms?
RG: And then you went on the road working traffic in Leon County?
JEB: That's correct.
RG: How long, what were your assignments then?
JEB: Just regular trooper assignments. Also, when Colonel Kirkman
was beginning to have a little problem driving, who was the
director at the time, when he would leave town to go on a trip
driving, I sometimes would drive Colonel Kirkman. Primarily I
was just a trooper working the roads, shift work like everybody
RG: Any outstanding things that occurred while you were driving the
Colonel around, Colonel Kirkman around? Anything that comes to
JEB: He was an early riser and my first trip, Colonel told me he
would want to get out early to go to Miami. So I set my clock
at 5:30 a.m. which I said well, I'd be ready at 6:30. It was
about 5:30 and the alarm had not even alarmed, there was a bang
on the door and it was Colonel Kirkman and he said, are you
about ready Beach? Yes Sir and I got ready, throw everything in
the suitcase. He had already had breakfast and I was riding
down the road, my stomack was growling and we heard something in
the trunk, it was kind of a ring, it was my alarm clock and the
Colonel said, what were you going to do boy, sleep all day. You
know, it's about 6:15 a.m. headed up through the Everglades and
I thought it was kind of early myself.
RG: Even before the clock went off, he was knocking on your door.
Then after your time stationed in Leon County, what did you do
then or what happened to you after that?
JEB: Well, I was offered this job with the State Beverage Department,
as district supervisor, which was equilavent to a troop
commander which held the rank of captain.
RG: So you left the Patrol and went back to them?
JEB: With them and when they changed governor, through political
shakeups, I was going to be demoted but the Beverage Department
and Dick Ervin who was Attorney General, who had been a personal
friend of mine for years, offered me a job as a statewide
investigator for the Attorney General's office which I accepted,
and kept it two or three years and then I joined the Highway
Patrol again in 1955 or 6.
RG: I think it was. Where did you go then, when you came back to the
JEB: Oh, I went to the Turnpike, the Turnpike was just opening, it
hadn't opened completely. Captain Taylor was the troop
commander there and Lieutenant Kaufman was lieutenant and I was
stationed in West Palm Beach.
RG: Can you tell me something about the Turnpike operation, how it
JEB: Well, you have that one long road to work, which didn't bother
me. Some people thought it was pretty confining but my
philosophy and attitude was that you can only work one road at
the time and it was more like a state police than a highway
patrol because you had full police powers which you know, you
probably had as much service, I mean by service, disabled
motorists, as you did enforcement on the Turnpike, more than you
did on what we call the outside roads. But I enjoyed my work.
RG: Were you stationed where, what city?
JEB: West Palm Beach.
RG: West Palm Beach and then after that, how long did you stay on
JEB: About a year and a half and then I was transferred to
Gainesville as a trooper.
RG: As a trooper, then you stayed in Gaines'ville for quite some
JEB: Several years, after about two years in Gainesville, I was
promoted to a safety officer, which at the time, did not carry
any rank. It carries the rank of sergeant now. At the time, it
was just special service officer and I was a safety officer for
a couple of years and then we acquired some land just north of
Gainesville which is where the present Florida Highway Patrol
Station is which honored me by naming the station after me
several years 'ago. And I was promoted to sergeant and
RG: In Gainesville?
JEB: Still in Gainesville and then in 1961 or 2, I was promoted to
captain, troop commander, and was transferred to Lake City.
RG: To Lake City, so you had the whole area that encompassed Troop
JEB: Troop B, eleven counties, geographically it's the biggest troop
in the state, population-wise it's not, but geographically it
RG: At that time, Troop G was in existence I guess and Jacksonville
wasn't in Troop B then.
JEB: No it wasn't.
RG: Okay, you stayed in Lake City for quite some time?
JEB: About three and a half years, then I was promoted to major, I
was a deputy inspector which was the title, with the rank of
RG: You came to Tallahassee?
JEB: Came to Tallahassee and was in charge of the northern district
which was from Orlando north and Chuck Reynolds was the southern
RG: Who was above you at that time, who was the inspector?
JEB: Lee Simmons, Inspector Simmons.
RG: Then who was the colonel at that time, was it still Colonel
JEB: Colonel Kirkman and It. colonel was Colonel Clifton.
RG: Okay, then later they changed the structure and had an executive
director which was Colonel Kirkman.
JEB: Yes, they had a reorganization session.
RG: Probably, I don't remember exactly when
RG: Probably was.
JEB: Nineteen sixty-eight and they had a new Department of Highway
Safety and Motor Vehicles which had an executive director and
Colonel Kirkman was the executive director.
RG: And then whenever he was promoted to executive director and took
that position, what happened to the other position. Did you
JEB: Well, he was still the colonel, it didn't affect the rank right
then at GHQ.
RG: Okay, and after you served as the deputy inspector for about how
JEB: Two and a half years.
RG: Two and a half years, then you were promoted again?
JEB: I was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
RG: Okay and who was the colonel at that time?
JEB: Colonel Clifton, Reid Clifton.
RG: Okay, anything outstanding along those lines what service he
JEB: No, except something that I had heard through the years that
everytime you promoted and get additional responsibilities, you
get a different picture of what's out there and truer words were
never spoken. You know you've got responsibilities of the
sergeants, you got one kind of lieutenant, four or five kinds of
troop commanders and here I am with half the state, which I
thought was awesome and then here comes a lieutenant colonel for
the whole state and that was
RG: So the picture does change and the responsibilities are a lot
greater. Then during that time, you served in that capacity for
about how long?
JEB: About a year and a half or less because Colonel Clifton decided
to leave the Patrol.
RG: And you were promoted at that time to Director of the Highway
JEB: April of 1972 I believe was when I was promoted to the Director
of the Florida Highway Patrol.
RG: Okay, can you, during your tenure as the Director of the Highway
Patrol, you had a number of things occur that around the
state that were important, can you innumerate some of those to
JEB: Well, I had three particular goals in mind when I realized I was
going to be the Director. I say three, there were many things I
would 'have liked to do that would help the Florida Highway
Patrol but three of my top goals and not necessarily in this
order was, hire the handicapped. I had always had a soft spot
in my heart through the years for them and they are excellent
employees so we really had a big move on hiring the
RG: In all positions or
JEB: Well, no, in all positions they would qualify for physically.
RG: Radio dispatcher?
JEB: Radio dispatcher.
RG: Secretaries, clerks
JEB: Secretaries, clerks and that was a quality, top priority and
minority recruitment was, you know, minorities, blacks,
hispanics and females and I think I was probably the first
department head or agency head to personally travel the state of
Florida, which I travelled probably over a year to let the
people know from the director that we really were sincere about
minority recruitment. Usually I had, not usually, but always, I
would do a television show or radio show or civic club or
community development center or whatever and have some
minorities with me and we personally for over a year made trips
throughout the state trying to let the minorities know that you
really are welcome to be a Florida Highway Patrol trooper.
RG: So you took some with you, can you name some of the ones that
you might have taken with you?
JEB: Al Lofton, he was the first black trooper who I was partly
instrumental in becoming a trooper.
RG: And where was he stationed?
JEB: He came from Lake City but we stationed him in Miami and another
trooper at the time, I believe the second black trooper, was Joe
Decoursey who was also in South Florida and is now stationed in
the Gainesville area. But those two were very impressive.
RG: And you took them with you to different functions and things?
JEB: Television, radio shows and it really helped our
RG: Joe Decoursey, like you say, is still with us in Gainesville and
since then Al Lofton has died of multiple sclerosis.
JEB: That's correct and my third, not necessarily in this order, was
a physical fitness program. I don't mean for anybody to be
ready to play football or any type of sports or to run five
miles but we had some troopers that were grossly overweight and
their belly hung out over their belts and they just, and I felt
like it was their responsibility to the state of Florida and to
themselves and their family and to the Florida Highway Patrol
that they become physically fit.
RG: How did you implement that?
JEB: Well, we had a weight program that a certain height you could
weigh a maximum number of pounds and we were pretty, while I was
pretty rigid with this requirement and as much as to suspend
RG: In otherwords, you wrote it into the Highway Patrol Manual?
JEB: Absolutely, in fact, I suspended a troop commander for three
days for failing to meet these requirements because he had made
some statements that he wasn't worried about his weight and I
realized that we could not have double standards for the
troopers and the supervisors so I was pretty instrumental in
RG: And in the Patrol schools or recruit schools and the refresher
schools you had at that time, did you have some program to
JEB: Yes, in fact, we started in the kitchen, Russ, with the cooks,
leave out a few of these starches and have more balanced diet,
and we had running and we had different types of calisthenics
just to prepare them. Law enforcement is a physical job, like I
said a few minutes ago, we .felt like it was our responsibility
to the citizens of the state to be physically able
RG: Physically fit?
RG: And it was accepted pretty well by the men in the field?
JEB: Certainly it was and the public, the general public, really
loved that physical requirement because like I said, we had some
people that had
RG: I imagine that troop commander did after you got through with
him, didn't he?
JEB: Yes, he lost some pounds.
RG: Can we regress a few minutes back to the time you came on the
patrol, was there much change that you can recollect in the
uniform situation. What were you issued when you came on the
Patrol and did they change much during the years?
JEB: I think the biggest change was the winter shirts and hats. When
I came on, we didn't wear a hat with the Stetson top, we had a
cap which was like a bus driver whatever, a cap type of head
gear and then we went to the Stetson, the felt in the winter and
the straw Stetson type hat in the summer and we went to a, we
had cotton shirts, long and short sleeves before and we went to
a polyester type, I guess it would be, long sleeve shirt, black
tie which I thought looked more professional.
RG: What sort of car were you issued when you first started off?
JEB: A 1950 Ford.
RG: Can you tell us something about it. How the equipment changed
through the years on the cars, some of the reasons why that
JEB: Well, of course, later on the statute was passed on the blue
light which was strictly for law enforcement but we got improved
equipment especially in communications. That was our biggest
problem, the equipment in the car itself and the patrol
stations, more patrol stations, more relay power, just overall
better equipment, clothing, weapons, everything became better as
time progressed equipment wise.
RG: I think we had a big change in radio communications equipment
along about 1975, I guess, did we change at that time?
JEB: Yes, in 1975.
RG: We changed from low band to high band.
RG: And we are in the process of trying to upgrade that system now.
Some of the things that occurred to you while you were director,
any outstanding things that you can remember there that were
problems to you?
JEB: I think probably and really to my benefit was right after I
become director, just a few months after that, I was in Miami
two to three weeks for the Republican National Convention. We
had 410 troopers there from all over the state and this is a
real great opportunity for me to be right in the middle of the
working man's atmosphere with the trooper on the road and the
field supervisors, first line supervisors, corporals and
sergeants. Not to listen to everybodies problems but to really
get some input on the things that we needed and I did. I came
up with some things from down there that, I don't mean that the
sergeant wouldn't want me to change my day off but I mean some
real equipment and working procedures. I felt like was an
improvement that I brought back to Tallahassee and discussed
with our staff and made some changes as a result of my two weeks
tour of Miami with the Republican Convention. I don't believe
they would, I'm not sure they would have completed the
Republican Convention had it not been for the Florida Highway
Patrol. The other law enforcement agencies were kind of a
political situation, they were qualified to do it, they were
just not allowed to enforce the law since we were statewide and
not local, I understood their position, we took the bull by the
horns and enforced the law.
RG: I think there was a lot of buildup prior to that and the
training that you required them to go to and Colonel Clifton
before he left required them to go to.
JEB: Absolutely. We had Major Reynolds, Chuck Reynolds, in charge of
the detail but as you stated, we had weeks and weeks of
training, all types of training.
RG: That led up to that. Also, were there any improvements that you
were instrumental in education-wise?
JEB: Yes, I encouraged troop commanders to work with their
supervisors to work with their troopers and when it would not
burden other troopers, arrange their shifts so they could attend
college, junior college, whatever. As a result, we had quite a
few troopers that were working full time as a trooper and also
RG: And that helped the overall education process within the Patrol
and helped attract some other people I guess that already had
that type training.
JEB: .Absolutely, and I personally become involved in the Academy.
I'v always believed in training and schooling, and I spent a lot
of time but at the Academy and worked with the staff on what
courses should be deleted or what should be included and this
type of thing. So I have always been a believer in education.
RG: And I think you always kept up your own physical requirements
too, and you went out and did a lot of training there too,
JEB: Yes, I was at the Academy two or three times a week just
visiting and looking at the academic side and also the physical
side. I was at three or four workouts a week at the Academy. I
wanted to set an example physically.
RG: Back whenever you went to school and college, were you ever
involved in any boxing or anything like that. Seems to me I
remember something about that.
JEB: Yes, I boxed in high school, an amateur, and then when I was in
the Marine Corps. I had 36 fights and I won"35.
RG: Is that right?
JEB: I even fought a professional from New Jersey and I was an
amateur then and then when I returned after I left the
University of Florida, between there and when I came on the
Patrol, I won the State Heavyweight Golden Gloves in Tampa,
Florida, in 1951.
RG: Hey that's good, that's all right.
JEB: In going back to equipment a little bit, this right handed
Rogers Holster that we wear now, the strong-type holster,
although I didn't authorize any issuing of that because we were
going to work into it because we had so many old type, we were
going to work into that, I did authorize the option to use the
one that is being used at this time, Rogers strong what's
the proper name for it.
RG: Strong hand holster.
JEB: In fact they named the holster Trooper I and I received the
RG: Okay, after, back whenever you were in Troop B as a troop
commander, who were some of the people that worked with you then
and who was your lieutenant at that time?
JEB: Bill Floyd was lieutenant in Lake City and the lieutenant in
Gainesville, that district, was Dick Roberts, S. O. Roberts,
Sergeant Fillingim was one of the supervisors and Willie Harris
was a sergeant.
RG: What became of them, did they stay there, retire there or
JEB: Fillingim moved to Pensacola and later retired and entered the
real estate business. All of these people that I just mentioned
have since retired.
RG: Okay, back whenever you were with the Beverage Department, we'll
regress a few minutes, I used to hear some stories about, that
you had some pretty good chases and cases during that time.
Anything come to your mind about those?
JEB: Well, you know when you are young and foolish, Russ, you do
things that you wouldn't do later on, but I had a reputation,
whether good or bad, at the time I thought it was good but
looking back I'm not sure. But I had a lot of high speed chases
and I'd do idiotic things like I'd get a car hemmed up, we'd
meet on the road both running at excessive speed and they'd try
to go around me, I'd run into them head-on, crash them, hit them
in the back and knock them off the road. Just anything to make
an apprehension which was like I said
RG: Think about it now and it scares you?
RG: What are some of the things you have done since you retired?
What were some of the things you have been involved in since
JEB: Well, one more thing while I was director and before I was
director, I took a great interest in and was fortunate enough to
be somewhat successful, I lobbied in the Legislature every year
since 19 about 60 for the Florida Highway Patrol until when I
left in 82 and I think the last across the board pay raise in
1972 was a $150 that we received across the board. At the time,
we were also down nationwide, with help of some friends,
particularly like Mallory Home, I requested the Legislature
give an across the board raise instead of giving us 6 or 7 or 8
percent, I wanted the trooper on the road yesterday to get the
same raise that the major got or the captain got.
RG: In otherwords, not a percentage, but
JEB: Right, because a percentage is as unk as they get and
what I was trying to do at that time, was to raise everybody up
and keep the differential the same.
RG: But you were involved in that all through your career more or
JEB: Yes, I was and was fortunate enough that a lot of the people
that I became acquainted with at the University of Florida were
members of the Legislature and they certainly were supportive of
the Highway Patrol.
RG: Who were some of the people on the Patrol that were with you
during those times, did you have anybody that helped you do
JEB: Oh yes, absolutely, in fact to start with, I was helping them,
like Karl Adams, Major Adams he was broke me in as a
lobbyist. Major Adams was really instrumental all through the
years. Colonel Collar was also very active in the Legislature
and later on, Joe Henderson worked with us up there with motor
vehicle inspection and Major Reynolds. But to start with, most
prominent one was Karl Adams.
RG: So that was the more interesting part of what you did and
JEB: Well, you were kind of getting the other side of the coin or the
big picture. You know, you can read in the paper about a law
passing or bill passing and the whole story is, there are two
things you don't want to see made, and that's laws and sausage.
RG: That's right.
JEB: You get a bad taste seeing the way they are put together.
RG: Back when you first started the lobbying, did the Legislature
meet every two years or every year?
JEB: No, every two years.
RG: So you had a little rest in between.
JEB: A little rest and you had more time to prepare your budget,
project your needs, I liked the every two years session,
personally it was better.
RG: Okay, during the time you did the lobbying, most of that
happened each two years to start with and then it ran into one
year and back to the minority recruiting. Besides the blacks
and other minorities and the handicapped that you hired, were
you involved in any other notable hirings?
JEB: Yes, the first female. I was I think largely responsible for
her, she came and talked to me personally at my office and I
encouraged her. During her recruit training, I received word
that she was going to give it up that was her words so
I went out to the Academy and talked with the young lady, Pat,
about you know, just a few more weeks and you'll be the first
female trooper and we really encouraged her, that she could help
us and as a result she did, helped us recruit more females
later but I encouraged her to stay and I'd say a year or year
and a half later, I received a long letter thanking me for my
support for minorities and females.
RG: Did she go with you on some of the recruiting adventures later?
JEB: She was stationed in Miami and when I was in Miami, we appeared
on television and radio in the Miami area, West Palm Beach, Ft.
Lauderdale and then I had her assigned to kind of, when we hired
the second female, the two of them would travel the state and
also make television spots .telling the females our arms are wide
open to the females.
RG: Okay and that helped the situation with all minorities?
JEB: Yes, very much. When they seen another female, saying look,
you're welcome. Come aboard the Florida Highway Patrol needs
RG: Colonel, during your time that you were with the Patrol even in
any capacity, we had a number of men killed unfortunately, do
you remember those outstanding ones you were involved in that?
JEB: I remember, especially when I was Director, all of them very
vividly. I'm a kind of, you know when Lassie gets lost, I get
shook up, I'm a real emotional person and seeing these troopers
slain and visiting their families before and after the funerals
and contacting them, it would really do me in for a few weeks.
From 72 to 74 or 5, I think in the seventies, there was about
three or four years that we lost about 10 or 11 troopers.. We
had kind of a rash of trooper killings and it was, everytime we
would lose a trooper that was killed, we would look at his case,
what could he have done. or what could we have done to prevent
this and there were also isolated and things that 99 percent of
the time, it was just, we finally realized unfortunately that it
goes with the territory. You know, if you are in law
enforcement, you are going to hurt people and you are going to
get hurt and I can-think of very few instances where really if
the trooper had done something else, you know you approach cars,
fifteen to twenty times a day and most of ours that were slain,
were approaching a car for speeding, one headlight and had no
idea that the person behind the wheel was wanted or a murderer
or what. This was probably my main concern after I became
Director was trying to protect our people.
RG: And to analyze those cases and use them in the Academy?
JEB: Absolutely, that's correct.
RG: Back on the lighter side, did you, can you think of some of the
prominent people you might have met when you were with the
Patrol, actors or anything like that, that you were involved
JEB: Well, actors, yes, a very famous Florida State alumnus, Bert
Reynolds, is really a nice gentlemen, a nice considerate person.
I met Bert Reynolds, I guess, 15 or 20 years ago in Tallahassee
through a friend of mine who was a trainer for Florida State,
John Falls, who still is a very good friend. I met Bert and
since then I have had four little parts in his movies, Smokey
and the Bandit I and II and a movie named Sharkey's Machine and
the latest one was Stix. Bert would arrange for me to have
these one liners and sometimes no liners but be in the movies, I
got to know him personally when he would come to Tallahassee, I
would, a lot of times,. visit with him and of course,
politicians, several of the Presidents and of course, most of
the Governors. As I said earlier, Russ, a lot of these people, I
didn't realize what little bit of football I played at the
University of Florida that I had the name recognition that I
did. I just never thought about it but I would be in some other
county and some Judge or whatever, oh I remember you down at
Florida. So I became, like I said, many members of the
RG: That attended Florida, either just before or during after that
JEB: Yes, after that
JEB: Members of the Cabinet, Dick Ervin, Doyle Conner,
RG: I think there was another attorney general that was there too
during that time.
JEB: Earl Faircloth
RG: Didn't he attend the University of Florida, too.
JEB: Yes, he did.
RG: What kind of parts, in otherwords, in that first movie, do you
remember what kind of part you had in the first movie?
JEB: Oh, yes, I was the bridge tender. The scene was down near
Bert's home in Jupiter and on the bridge.....was a draw bridge
and I was the bridge tender and Jackie Gleason and his son got
hung up on the bridge and the scene I was in, I look up and I
see the bridge is up and the police car is in balance being
ready to tip into the canal and I flip a coin and say, well we
have a problem, heads up, tails down, and I flip the quarter-'and
it says tails, so I say, down she goes and "I push the lever, the
car plunges into the canal.
RG: What about the last one, was it Stix?
JEB: It was Stix, I had a one liner in there and they cut that out
RG: Oh, they did?
JEB: Yes, Reynolds had made a statement about, show you how fiction
it was, I was a millionaire in the movie. Bert said in the
movie, the man that presented the movie that we were supposed to
finance, he was a con artist, and Bert said to me, Colonel, I
think he is a phony, don't you? And I said, you betcha. I had
three words and I just could not wait and when it came out, it
was edited out.
RG: They cut it out?
JEB: Yes, but I had a good close-up there. It was fun and I met and
got to appreciate the motion picture people. Reynolds and the
people associated with it, they brought a lot of money to
Florida and made me see how hard they worked and they were
people too. You know, you meet people like Sally Fields, Jackie
Gleason and Candace Bergen and these movie stars and
RG: It helps the industry in Florida?
JEB: Yes, and it made you realize that they were pretty much down to
RG: Also, we can regress a little bit, do you have any brothers or
JEB: I had one brother that was four years older than I was that died
when he was 34 years old. He was a printer in St. Petersburg
and that was the only
RG: And he lived in St. Pete most of the time?
Tape starts here
JEB: It was beyond my wildest dreams, so you can imagine how I felt,
how fortunate and humbled .that I was and still am that I was
fortunate enough to become the Director, the Colonel, it was a
real honor and pleasure for me to be able to help people, to
some trooper's parents were ill in North Florida, to put him
back up near his parents, to do whatever to help so many people
and going through the ranks of sergeant to colonel, all the
opportunities I had to work and meet with the radio operators
and the clerks and the secretaries and the troopers and their
families and watch the children, when I was a' trooper or
sergeant, at babies later on as a Colonel' to see them in high
school and the progress they had made and I always kept up with
them. It was a personal thing to me to keep up with the
families, the kids and the loved ones. Then when I retired, I
feel that I am somewhat responsible for Bobby Burkett who is the
Director now. One of the last promotions I made was promoting
him to Major and how much influence it had, I'm not sure, but
now Attorney General Butterworth visited me when he was the
Executive Director and asked me who I would recommend and he had
three or four names, and I emphasized Burkett, not only because
of his past, but he was a trooper, I really felt strong about
somebody coming from within the ranks. And, so I feel like I
was somewhat responsible for Bobby Burkett being the present
Director and doing the good job that he is doing and I enjoyed
working with him as I have you Russ, all through the years. The
Highway Patrol has produced many, many great dedicated people
and you are one of them, Russ.
RG: Thank you. So there was very much so a gratifying side to being
the Director of the Florida Highway Patrol.
JEB: Absolutely, I never felt that I would be the Colonel. When I
was, I used to sit back and glance at Colonel Kirkman scared to
death when I would take him somewhere with admiration, of
course, just that awesome responsibility and authority. I
accept it with humility and gratification and great experience.
RG: Okay, actually, after you retired you continued to lobby with
the Legislature for things that the Highway"Patrol needed?
JEB: Yes, I first was associated with the Police Benevolent
Association, lobbied for law enforcement in general but
primarily the Florida Highway Patrol, and recently, I was with
the Florida Association of State Troopers where I continued to
lobby the Legislature and the Cabinet for the Florida Highway
RG: Again, you feel now that the progress we have made is good but
we still have a long way to go, is that right?
JEB: Well, absolutely, we can still entice more qualified people, I
think out of the 50 states, we're still about 46 in pay which is
ridiculous, I think we are the cream of the crop in law
enforcement in the state of Florida and I think along with
increased pay it comes along with other increased benefits and
increase qualified people from radio operators up through the
RG: In closing, is there anything that you think we should cover
that we haven't?
JEB: I don't think so Russ. I have enjoyed reminiscing here with you
today at East Point. I live right across the bay at St. George
Island. I'm retired and my wife is bringing home the bacon.
She is in the real estate business. My oldest son is with the
Department of Law Enforcement in Tampa, Florida, and our
youngest son is a sophomore at Florida State University.
RG: Oh, that's good, what is he taking there or what will he take?
JEB: I believe he is going into, he has changed two or three times, I
think it was business on computers. My oldest son is with the
Department of Law Enforcement, he graduated from Florida State
in criminal justice.
RG: What does he do with FDLE?
JEB: He's an agent.
RG: An agent in Tampa. Okay, well it certainly has been a pleasure
for me to talk with you and talk over old times and I will
cherish the opportunity that we had. The present Director,
Bobby Burkett, that we have alluded to, I'm sure is proud of
this tape and appreciates the opportunity for you to participate
in our Oral History Program.
JEB: Well, I appreciate Bobby allowing me to be involved especially
the visit with you Russ.
RG: Thank you very much.