History of the Utah Highway Patrol Beginning 1923
– By Sergeant Les Langford, Ret.
I first began researching and writing the history of the Utah Highway Patrol in the spring of 1992. I had met Holly Fryer, son of Captain L. L. Fryer. He told me that his father was one of the first members of the Utah Highway Patrol, hired in 1928. That brief conversation sparked a desire within me to learn more about the first patrolmen of the UHP. You will read more about Captain Fryer and the professionalism he instilled within the ranks of the UHP. I soon met many other family members of early patrolmen. As I researched and wrote my findings, I gained a deep understanding of the many dedicated officers who have pioneered the creation of one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the nation.
It is only proper that I recognize a few individuals who have helped me research and write this history. The first patrolman killed in the line of duty was Ed VanWagenen – 1931. His son, Jess, has helped me understand the hardships endured by the family members of officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
I met a gentleman and a friend in Whit Groo, son of the first Colonel of the UHP – 1925. Through Whit, I was able to know the love that his father felt for this organization. I am certain that it was with deep sorrow that his father left the department due to politics in 1941. Whit can be certain that the legacy of his father will live forever in this history.
Mel Grant joined the UHP in 1934. His wife, Leona, has helped me to know her husband and the compassion he carried in his heart. That same compassion lives on in the hearts of troopers as they respond to serious accidents, provide first aid, and notify next of kin.
Blondie Porter also joined the Patrol in 1934. His wife, Luree, has helped in many ways. Luree has helped identify old photographs, loaned items for the Law Enforcement Museum at the Utah State Capitol, and provided valuable insight into the history of the UHP in southern Utah.
At the age of 77, DeLance Squire, son of Loren Squire, continues to work a full time job. DeLance obviously learned service and work from his father. Joining the Patrol in 1933, Patrolman Loren Squire served 25 years with the UHP. Loren was then elected to the Utah State House of Representatives. He was twice re-elected and then elected as a State Senator. He later served two terms as Mayor of LaVerkin, as a Board Member, and Town Clerk, and as Justice of the Peace for ten years. Patrolman Squire’s service is indicative of the service of many troopers of the UHP.
Peter L. Dow joined the Patrol in 1931. He was promoted to Colonel in 1941. He helped me understand the many political winds of the UHP during the 1930s and 1940s. Although age had taken his sight, his memory was excellent. Colonel Dow died in 1995, but his influence will live forever.
Prior to joining the UHP in 1936, O. P. “Bob” Howard played professional baseball for the San Francisco Seals. In 1925, Bob was awarded the Anderberg Medal as the best all around athlete at Brigham Young University. His competitive nature helped the UHP win the coveted Chief’s Trophy in 1942. His physical fitness goals and competitive spirit continue to encourage every new trooper to reach their fullest potential. I am so grateful to have know Bob and his wife D’Rilla. Following Bob’s death in 1994, D’Rilla loaned the Chief’s Trophy to the Law Enforcement Museum.
Many other retired members that deserve special recognition are Mark Birch, Neil Bishop, Bud Bowman, Steve Brown, Otho Bulkley, Russ Cederlund, Bill Duncan, Dick Evans, Ray Evans, Floyd Farley, Gordon Farnsworth, Mike Gale, Ron Gale, Roger Gilmore, Cliff Green, Dick Hall, Sam Hatch, Keith Hooper, Ray Jackson, Vasco Laub, ElRoy Mason, John Moon, Ed Pitcher, Roland Reese, Duane Richens, Wayne Rider, John Rogers, Scott Skidmore, Nick Thomas, and Chuck Warren. I apologize if there are others which I have failed to mention.
As you can see, this history was a project which took several years with the help of many dedicated people. As you read this history, I hope you can feel the pride, dedication, camaraderie, and commitment to service shared by all members of the Utah Highway Patrol.