|The Thin Blue Line|
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By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez
Thank you for joining us this month as we continue our series about first responders in our great state.
First allow us to say: we wish to pay our respects to the brave men and women of our military, and let them know our thoughts and prayers are with them, particularly those currently on deployment outside our country and away from their families.
However, we also wish to add our gratitude to those that serve outside of our military forces as well. Also called the Thin Blue Line, this group of dedicated public servants serve to keep us, our families, and our property safe. Our hats are off to you, and our gratitude for all you do.
Over the last few months, we have been delving into the history of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and of the various police departments here in this great state. This month, we look into the history of the Lawton, Oklahoma Police Department.
One would assume that the beginning of a law enforcement agency would begin with the town. However, in this case, that would be mildly incorrect. With the formation of Fort Sill on the eastern side of the Wichita Mountains, in 1869, there began a police force in the area. The U.S. Army Cavalry served as military and law enforcement for the at-times fractious Chiricahua Apache Native Americans in the area.
However, it was August 6th, 1901, that the land lottery in the Wichita mountain region, as well as the area that was surrounding Fort Reno, occurred. Within a day, the town of Lawton cropped up. With the formation of the town, it was decided they needed a police force, in particular due to the existence of Fort Sill so close.
They gathered their first police officers from former members of the detachment there at Fort Sill. Within one year, Lawton had become quite the boom-town. There were more than one hundred saloons, as gambling was still legal. The first Chief Of Police in Lawton was Heck Thomas, former U.S. Marshall for the Oklahoma Territory. Heck was recruited by the city to come in and calm things down in 1902. He was the one that was attributed with capturing Bill Doolin, of the Doolin-Dalton gang. Heck retained the position of Chief of Police for seven years, before health issues forced him into retirement.
It wasn’t until statehood that gambling became illegal in Lawton. Once the ordinances went into effect, however, the violence finally started to die down.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the Lawton Police Department, and join us next month, as we wrap up the history of this great and historic institution, and its effects on our great state’s history.
Born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great-great granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to settle in Indian Territory. Judge was born and raised in Little Axe, Oklahoma, the son of A.F. Veterans. Judge and Alanna love the history of the state and relish in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her first published story, part of a collaborative novella titled Legacy Letters, came out September 2016. Alanna and Judge live with her parents in the Edmond area. They are currently collaborating on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Oklahoma.