The Department of Public Safety
In Shelby County
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|Russell "Rusty" Vinyard||N. W. "Dub" Clark||Terry Lynch||James Moore||Joe Wilkinson||Hal Wyatt|
The first Texas State traffic law was enacted in 1907. It
consisted of six sections: requiring registration of motor vehicles, regulating
speed, racing, hand signals for granting right-of-way to animals and requiring a
suitable bell and lights on motor vehicles.
The beginning of rural traffic law enforcement in the State of Texas was with legislation passed in 1919 expanding the rules and regulations for the movement of vehicular traffic. A provision was also included authorizing the Commissioner’s Courts of each county to permit each sheriff to hire two deputy sheriffs for the purpose of enforcing rural traffic regulations.
During the early 1920’s the citizens and officials of Texas saw the need for some method of statewide enforcement of traffic regulations of motor truck traffic. The increasing truck traffic and the condition of the roads of Texas presented a real problem, so the Texas Legislature found it necessary to create an organization to enforce existing regulations in 1927. The Texas Highway Department was authorized to employ 18 License and Weight Inspectors and one Chief inspector. After only two years, the License and Weight Section was increased to 50 men and named the State Highway Patrol. In 1931, the enforcing agency was authorized 120 men. These officers had limited police powers with authority only to deal with misdemeanor traffic violations.
By 1935 the State’s part in crime prevention and traffic control was inadequate and improperly organized. On August 10, 1935, the Legislature created the Texas Department of Public Safety and assigned this new agency the powers of "enforcement of the laws protecting the public safety and providing for the prevention and detection of crime." The act provided for transfer of the Texas Rangers from the Adjutant General’s Department and the State Highway Department to the Department of Public Safety. The State Highway Patrol was renamed the Texas Highway Patrol and its officers given full enforcement powers.
On November 15, 1935, the Texas Legislature passed the State’s first driver licensing law. The act contained two provisions of major importance – one requiring the licensing of Texas drivers by the Department and the other calling for the Department to begin keeping a system of traffic records. The law made it the responsibility of county tax collectors throughout Texas to collect fees and issue licenses, without a requirement for driver examinations. In 1937, the Legislature amended the 1935 Act and gave the Department full responsibility for all drivers licensing in the State, requiring written tests and demonstration of driving skill.
In September 1941, 32 experienced patrolmen were transferred to the Drivers License Division and relinquished their enforcement duties in November 1941. O’Brien Ross went to work for the Department of Public Safety of Texas in the License Division in 1941 in Shelby County. He served in this capacity until he was inducted in the service in 1945 during World War II. After his discharge in 1946, he resumed his position until his death in 1961. Charles Crawford worked in the License Division beginning in 1961. These officers worked alone in this office until 1967, when Elizabeth Harris Pate was employed as a clerk. As far as we know, Jerry Teer was the last officer to work in the License Division in Shelby County.
According to our records in Shelby County, Russell (Rusty) Vinyard was the first DPS Trooper to serve Shelby County. Rusty was born in Staples, Texas. He was stationed in Tyler, Texas and worked Shelby County on a motorcycle in the old days – mid thirties and forties. He was stationed in Shelby County permanently in 1943. He retired in 1970 and moved back to Staples. Rusty died in 1993.
The following is a list of the other DPS Troopers who served Shelby County in the past:
* Cloyd Black served Shelby County from 1943 until 1951.
*N. W. (Dub) Clark entered the 16th Texas Highway Patrol class at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, on January 9, 1950. Following his graduation, he was assigned to Crockett, Houston County, Texas in March of 1950. In March of 1951, Dub was assigned to his hometown, Center, Texas, to work with long time Highway Patrolman R. L. (Rusty) Vinyard. Their territory was Shelby, San Augustine and Sabine Counties. (See related article in family section.)
*Maxie Eaves was born December 4, 1934 in the Choice Community in Shelby County to Orby Ervin Eaves and Ary Margaret Colvin. He attended school at Clever Creek and then Center ISD. He was employed at Shelby Co-op Feed, Corbitt Morris and L. C. Smith. He graduated in 1957 from the 28th DPS graduating class in Austin, Texas. After graduating, his first assignment was in Tyler, Texas. Maxie worked for DPS for about six months before he went into the Army. He did his time, came home and went back to work for DPS, stationed in Trinity, Texas. He was not there long before he went back into the Army. In 1962, when he came back to the DPS, he was stationed in Shelby County where he worked from 1962 to 1965. In 1965, he went into the poultry business. In 1968, he was elected Sheriff of Shelby County and began serving in June 1969. He served in this position until 1976. Maxie still lives in Shelby County.
* W. H. (Hal) Wyatt was born in Center, Texas to W. R. Wyatt and Blanche Cooper. He grew up in the Pleasant Grove Community in Shelby County. He attended school in Center for eight years, graduated from Aldine in Houston, Texas. He attended SFA College in Nacogdoches. In March 1964, he graduated from the DPS Academy in Austin, Texas. His first assignment was in Brenham, Texas. In 1969, he was assigned to come back to Shelby County where he worked until 1993, at which time he retired. Hal still lives in Center, Texas.
Here are some more Troopers who served Shelby County: Howard Alfred, Terry Lynch, Mack Dillard, Glen Wood, Joe Wilkerson, Paul Hopson, Jessie Wilburn, John Boone, Mike Pitcock, David Outon, James Carroll, Roger Scott, John McDaniel, Ralph Norsworthy, James Moore, Travis Brazil, David Yarberry, Greg Evans, Terry Truett, Randy Minshew, Bob Reeves and Greg Schroeder.
During the research for this article, we were told an interesting fact. Maxie Eaves said, "In the 1960’s there were more recruits for the Department of Public Safety from Shelby County than any other county in Texas."
Some of the Sergeants who covered the Shelby County area over the years are: Dale Nicholson, D. K. Johnson, Ben Urbanzyk, Warren Kirkland and Paul Hopson.
The following are Shelby County natives who have or are serving DPS in some capacity: Don Bailey – License and weight, Ricky Allen – Sgt. Inv. Narcotics, David Amos – Sgt. Inv. Narcotics, Johnny Hooper – Senior Trooper/License and Weight, Ronnie Porter – Highway Patrol and Ben Neel –Narcotics Division.
At the time of this writing (2002), the DPS Troopers serving in the Sergeant Area are: Shelby County - Gerald Corbell, David Martin, Jimmy Faulkner, Matt Wheeler, Michael Neal and Gary Rudisill; San Augustine County - Cody Muse and Larry Linder; Sabine County – Tommy Scales and Tim Saltzman.
Many Troopers are involved in Department Special Operations Teams - such as, Swat Team, State Accident Reconstruction Team, Expert Witnesses and Dive-Recovery Team.