Tennessee Highway Patrol

In 1926, the State Police Act was passed which was patterned after the 1821 law that created the Texas Rangers. The TSP was comprised of fifteen men and was instituted primarily to collect fees and taxes. Needless to say, this organization was not popular with the citizens of the Volunteer State, nor with the media of the day who in one case labeled them as "obnoxious, bullying and disgraceful to the state".

By the late 1920's the proliferation of the motor car was growing significantly, as were broken traffic laws and highway fatalities. On December 14, 1929, the Tennessee Highway Patrol was born. The primary focus of the new state law enforcement agency was to protect, not prosecute law-abiding motorists. The THP were to enforce the traffic and revenue laws with courtesy and professionalism.

In 1930, 55 motorcycles and 5 patrol cars were purchased. The chief and four district chiefs had the cars while the patrol officers rode the motorcycles. During World War II, procurement of cars for patrol became difficult. In 1943, the THP located nine Ford flat-head 6 cylinder cars at a dealership in Long Island NY. Nine THP patrolmen were sent to the dealership and assigned to drive them back to Tennessee. The same process was repeated when seven more Fords were found in Philadelphia PA shortly thereafter.

These would be the last new patrol cars for the THP until after the war. In 1950, THP patrol cars began to display a red roof light, and in 1954, the THP began using radar for speed enforcement. In 1957, the THP became the first police agency in the U.S. to use helicopters in patrol work. In 1959, the title "Highway Patrolman" changed to "Trooper", and the change was reflected on the trunk deck of the cream and black colored patrol cars with the words "STATE TROOPER" in reflective markings. Side markings were also changed from the long-used oval to the state seal and the words "TENNESSEE STATE TROOPER" embossed on an outline of the distinctive state shape.

For a brief period in the late 1950's, the THP formed a select squad of motorcycle officers and dubbed them the "Yellow Jackets". The name derived from the garish yellow leather jackets and black trim the officers wore as well as the word "Yellow Jacket" emblazoned on the motorcycle along with the regular THP markings. In 1967, THP patrol cars went to 4 door sedans, automatic transmission, power brakes and air conditioning. In 1972, a tactical squad was formed known as the "Tact Squad".

In December of 1977, 100 brand new Plymouth patrol cars left Nashville with newly-sworn Troopers behind the wheel. They left in a convoy on Interstate 40 with overhead blue lights activated. This impressive sight left many a Nashville highway motorist riveted as the patrol cars began to diverge east and west to their new assignments throughout the state.

The following year saw the "one-officer-one-car" concept, with each patrol car being issued to each officer. This provided for additional profile, made call-out responses a lot quicker, and cut down on maintenance costs that pool cars had been known for. In November of 1999, the THP became an accredited police agency (CALEA) The THP is responsible for the enforcement of all federal and state laws relating to traffic.

Serving the entire state of Tennessee with substations in each of its 95 counties, the THP has district headquarters in eight locations as well as scale houses in 5 additional locations. The Tennessee Highway Patrol is responsible for investigating accidents involving property damage, personal injury, and fatalities. When personal injury or fatal accidents involve drugs or alcohol, the THP is responsible for prosecution in the courts and working with the Attorney General's Office.

Tennessee State Flag

The three stars on the flag represent the three different land
forms in Tennessee. Mountains in the east, highlands in
the middle and lowlands in the west. On the flag these regions are
bound together in an unbroken circle. The field is crimson with a
blue background for the stars. The final blue strip relieves the sameness
of the crimson field and prevents the flag from showing too
much crimson when it is limp.


1937 issue. State shape. "FREE" indicated a no "no fee"
plate used by exempt vehicles like the Highway Patrol.
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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1938 issue. State shape. "FREE" indicated a no "no fee"
plate used by exempt vehicles like the Highway Patrol.

Picture courtesy of
The Tennessee Highway Patrol

Circa 1950's- Embossed steel- State Shape
12" top, 10 3/4" bottom, & 5 1/2" tall
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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State Shaped with THP prefix & 3 digit serial;
"DRIVE SAFELY" bottom& "TENN." stacked
vertically on the right

Picture courtesy of
The Tennessee Highway Patrol
 

State Shaped with THP prefix
& 2 digit serial;
"DRIVE SAFELY" bottom & "TENN." stacked
vertically on the right

Picture courtesy of
Life Magazine

Circa 1954-1956 issue.
White over Green

1957-58 white/dark green; embossed state outline occupies entire center of plate with "THP" & 3 digit serial inside; "DRIVE SAFELY" top & "TENN." bottom -
both outside outline
Picture courtesy of
The Tennessee Highway Patrol
 

1961-1973 issue. Embossed steel.
Number in 100's: Knoxville District- Car 3-
Issued to Lieutenant.
These plates were issued in sets of four to have spares on-hand,
as these plates were very prone to premature rusting.


Picture courtesy of
The Tennessee Highway Patrol


Circa 1961-1973 State Vehicle issue- used concurrent with THP prefixed plates of the same color/format.
19= Agency number for THP.

Courtesy of the John Yeaw Collection
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this type plate on duty....
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1974- 1976 issue. White over flat dark green.
Embossed aluminum. S1= Car.

Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection

Picture courtesy of
The Tennessee Highway Patrol

1976-1985 issue- State Owned Vehicle. Reflective background. This style of state owned vehicle plate commenced in 1974,
but the green was darker in color. S1= car.
Other letter just in alphabetical issuing sequence.
Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection

Picture courtesy of Jay Weinstein

1985-1990 issue- State Owned Vehicle.
Reflective background. Step border. S1= car.
Other letters just in alphabetical issuing sequence.

Picture courtesy of Jay Weinstein

1991- Current issue
(Note plate # in car picture)
Plate courtesy of the Robert Ward Collection

Picture courtesy of
The Tennessee Highway Patrol

1991- 2007- Senior THP Officer (Major)



2007-Current issue
THP now using
an all flat, screened tag.

Plate courtesy of the Bill Ceravola Collection

2007-Current issue
D.A.R.E. Vehicle


1991- 2007- Pre-embossing. Shows circular holograms with "92" that run vertically down the center sheeting of the plate.
 

Late 30's - early 40's THP Motor Unit
Note the regular issue cycle plates (Pre "THP" prefix)

Picture courtesy of
The Tennessee Highway Patrol
 

Government Service Motorcycle plate
S = State Owned
Type used by the THP

Plate courtesy of Chris Brown
We are looking for a picture showing
this type plate on duty....
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Government Service Motorcycle plate
Plate courtesy of Chris Brown
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this type plate on duty....
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Government Service Motorcycle plate
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this type plate on duty....
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Motorcycle Plate

2003-2004 75th Anniversary front plate.

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this type plate on duty....
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Optional booster
Plate courtesy of the Mike Crosby Collection

Optional booster