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Department of Public Safety: Christmas Holidays

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | 1960s

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  •  I'm Homer Garrison, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, with some information of vital importance to all Texans about the Christmas - New Year Holiday period. 
  •  I've called a news conference in order to bring out the facts about this tragedy of violent death that always accompanies this otherwise wonderful time of the year. 
  •  To begin with, past experience indicates that in the nine day period from Christmas Eve through New Years Day, 180 persons will meet violent death in our state. 
  •  Of these, it is indicated that 96 will die in traffic. There will be 40 suicides and homocides and there will be 44 deaths from accidents not related to traffic. 
  •  That, briefly, gentlemen, is the outlook. 
  •  I'm Kyle Thompson of the United Press International. Colonel Garrison, you mentioned past experience. What was the story on traffic deaths during the holidays last year? What actually happened and why? 
  •  Well Kyle, last year there were 110 traffic fatalities in a holiday period of 11 days. Studies indicate that speed too fast for conditions was a major factor, followed or accompanied by driving while intoxicated and driving on the wrong side of the road. But if this tragedy could be linked to one single factor, I would say general carelessness coupled with disregard for the law would stand out. 
  •  Colonel, I'm Garth Jones of the Associated Press. I understand that a terrific percentage of fatal accidents might be called do-it yourself accidents. Is that so? 
  •  Yes Garth, it is. During the last holiday season, some 62 percent of the accidents involved only one car. And this is true throughout the year. It would seem to bear out our guess that carelessness and inattentiveness are largely to blame for these terrible traffic tolls. As for this Christmas season, we're going to take these measures: 
  •  The Department of Public Safety will strengthen the Highway Patrol with something like 150 patrolmen from our other uniformed services. We'll be looking to you and all members of the news media to keep the facts of holiday dangers before the public as you've always done. And we'd like to appeal directly to all drivers to examine the record and take the obvious steps to avoid tragedy on the streets and highways of our state. 
  •  Traffic Statistics, 1962 
  •  Homer Garrison 
  •  Operation Deathwatch 
  •  Kyle Thompson, United Press International 
  •  Garth Jones, Associated Press 
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  • Col. Homer Garrison... Col. Homer Garrison Jr.
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Homer Garrison, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, speaks about traffic safety during the Christmas holidays.

Established by the Texas Legislature on August 10, 1935, the Texas Department of Public Safety was created by the consolidation of the Texas Highway Motor Patrol with the Texas Rangers. Since that time, its duties have grown to include such activities as the state licensing of drivers, vehicle inspection, narcotics enforcement, and the State Civil Defense Office, (now the Division of Emergency Management,) which aids local governments during times of natural disaster or social upheaval. While its duties have evolved over time, the mission of the DPS has remained constant - to provide public safety services to those people in the state of Texas by enforcing laws, administering regulatory programs, managing records, educating the public, 

Colonel Homer Garrison Jr.'s lifelong Texas law enforcement career began at age 19 (shortly after graduating from Lufkin High School), when he was appointed deputy sheriff of Angelina County. In 1930, he joined the newly forming Texas Highway Patrol. When the Texas Highway Patrol became part of the Texas Department of Public Safety in 1935, Col. Garrison became the new agency's first assistant director. In 1938, his role changed to director of the DPS and chief of the Texas Rangers, a position he held until his death in 1968. The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum at Fort Fisher is named for him.

Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation.  At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades - during the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
A particularly notable moment in his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas. 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.