Exhibit Details the History of the Tennessee Highway Patrol
A new exhibition detailing the extensive history of the Tennessee Highway Patrol opens at the State Museum on July 3. The exhibit, Servants of Safety: 85 Years of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, is free to the public and will be on view in the museum’s Changing Gallery.
The exhibition explores the history and the expansion of the organization throughout the past eight decades. The State Museum holds hundreds of artifacts from the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) which have been transferred to the museum’s permanent collection over the years. Through a sampling of these artifacts and historical photographs, the exhibition tells the story of the many dedicated men and women who have worked for the agency since it was created more than 80 years ago.
The Highway Patrol did not even exist for six years after the state initially began building roads and bridges in 1923. Governor Austin Peay created the Department of Highways and Public Works to build miles of paved roads, but there was no agency created to police them. At that time, driver’s licenses were not required to operate a motor vehicle in the Volunteer State.
As city and counties handled traffic issues in their jurisdictions, the issue of traffic safety on state highways became a concern among Tennessee’s lawmakers.
In 1929, the Tennessee General Assembly, under the leadership of Governor Henry H. Horton, approved the creation of the “Tennessee Highway Patrol” for the primary purpose of enforcing laws, rules, and regulations applicable to state highways.
The patrol had the right to make arrests, and serve criminal warrants as well as subpoenas. The THP was also to assist the Commissioner of Finance and Taxation along with the county court clerks across the state in the collection of state taxes and revenues.
The following year, 55 troopers were chosen from 3,250 applicants. Sergeant John L. Sullivan, a decorated World War I veteran, was the first patrolman selected. The agency initially purchased 55 motorcycles and five cars. Red lights, a friction siren, a first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher were added to each basic factory model Harley-Davidson motorcycle. A sign reading: “Tenn. Highway Patrol” was mounted atop the front fender. When those first cycles were later replaced, newer motorcycles received a customized paint job at which time the name of the new agency was painted on opposite sides of the gasoline tank.
Highlights of the exhibit include:
• A 1986 Ford Crown Victoria branded as a Tennessee Highway Patrol car
• Historic Highway Patrol uniforms, including dress-style attire, “yellow jacket” motorcycle regalia, and a jacket in the popular “Ike” jacket from the mid-1950s
• A facsimile of a 1958 “yellow jacket” motorcycle
• A 1970s Toximeter (breathalyzer) — a device for estimating blood alcohol content from a breath sample.
The exhibit, which continues into the new millennium, illustrates the agency’s many advancements and its commitment to the future. Today the Tennessee Highway Patrol continues its long tradition of serving, securing, and protecting the people of the Volunteer State.
Servants of Safety: 85 Years of the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be on view through October 4, 2015.
Photographs Capture How Nashville Looked 30 Years Ago
An exhibition of 50 black-and-white images, as seen through the lens of photographer Hank DeVito, captures Nashville as it was more than three decades ago. The exhibition entitled, Places I Remember: Photographs of Nashville by Hank DeVito, will open on July 3 in the museum’s Changing Gallery and is free to the public.
DeVito attended New York’s prestigious School of Visual Arts on a scholarship in the late 1960s. He moved to Nashville in the mid-1980s to become a part of the city’s thriving music industry.
“My photographs of Nashville are now 30 years old. They are images of places I remember seeing when I first moved to Middle Tennessee,” explained DeVito. “Back then, Nashville still felt like a small, southern town. The art student in me responded to the ‘mom and pop’ storefronts and the hand-painted advertising signs. But now, the art of sign painting is a lost art, replaced with neon and plastic.”
During his career, DeVito has had several exhibitions in Nashville art galleries. His work has been exhibited at the Hunter Museum, in Chattanooga, the Knoxville Museum of Art, and at the Memphis College of Art. His photographs are a part of many private collections as well as the collections held at Vanderbilt University and the Knoxville Museum of Art. He has also had exhibitions at several area galleries.
DeVito’s photographs have also been featured on many album cover designs for various recording artists, including Rosanne Cash’s “King’s Record Shop,” which won the Grammy Award for best album art in 1988.
“Capturing our state’s social history and our city’s vanishing neighborhoods is part of our museum’s mission,” said Lois Riggins-Ezzell, executive director of the State Museum. “Whether you lived in Nashville during this era and remember many of these places, or you are new to the city, DeVito’s images engage the viewer with a profound reflection into times and places that are rapidly disappearing.”
Gallery owner Anne Brown of The Arts Company explained, “Downtown Nashville in the 1960s and '70s suffered the effects of urban renewal — boarded-up and neglected old buildings abandoned in favor of the evolving era of shopping centers. Hank DeVito’s elegiac black-and-white photographic portraits of selected downtown buildings at that time show Nashville in the classic vintage style of Walker Evans’ photographs of the South in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. They rise above documentation. They are stark and true poetic visual icons of a time remembered, but long past.”
Places I Remember: Photographs of Nashville by Hank DeVito will be on view through October 4, 2015.
© Moments By Moser Photography * Bev Moser