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Texas Department of Public Safety - Labor Day 1965 Holiday Safety Reminder

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | 1965

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  •  I'm Homer Garrison, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety with a tragic story of what happened on our streets and highways on Labor Day weekend, 1964. Thirty nine persons were killed and hundreds were injured, and in 9 out of 10 of these accidents, one or more drivers violated the law. 
  •  The most common violation was a failure to yield the right of way, followed closely by violations where the driver exceeded his safe speed for existing conditions. 
  •  Many accidents were caused by failure to stop or turn in time. 
  •  Driving while intoxicated continues to take its toll of human life, but just as deadly is driving on the wrong side of the road. 
  •  Labor Day 1965 can tell a different story from the one you've just seen. We estimate that 35 persons will die over the Labor Day weekend. 
  •  But with your help in observing traffic laws, we hope to avoid this tragic loss. We are counting on you. 
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  • About the video
  • Texas DPS Texas DPS
  • Col. Homer Garrison... Col. Homer Garrison Jr.
  • Gordon Wilkison Gordon Wilkison
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Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Col. Homer Garrison, Jr., urges safe driving over the Labor Day weekend. To make his point, the film is accented with images of devastating car wrecks.

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, and managing emergencies, both directly and through interaction with other agencies.

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.