Interview with Retired APD Chief Herman Perry
Chief Perry called me after I mailed him my report regarding APD employees who later became police chiefs. He was excited and wanted to talk to me in person. He was candid, friendly, and very informative. He did not add any information to the police chief research, but the conversation was very interesting and in some cases, historically important. His wife, Sammy, was present and participated slightly in the interview, generally only when Chief Perry could not remember a date or name.
He started at DPS as a licensing officer in 1951. He left for a short time and worked as a General Motors Plant security guard, but quickly returned to the DPS position. He said “I did not think any job could be worse than DPS, until I had the GM job. Thankfully, DPS let me come back to my old position.”
He was hired as the APD Assistant Chief in 1956. I asked him if going from a DPS Officer with no supervisory experience to the APD Assistant Chief was a difficult transition. He laughed and stated it was not, because APD was so small. As an example, he described how every existing APD record was kept in two file drawers and tickets were stored in a “cheese crate”. The Police Chief was Ott Cribbs and the Department consisted of 20 men. Perry followed another Assistant Chief who had not been successful (from the Dallas Police Department) and left. This Assistant Chief was infamous with the APD force for his “101 Rules” (an early form of a General Orders manual). The force hated it. Perry’s first official action was to throw out the 101 Rules in order to have a positive start with the officers. Perry kept a copy and provided me a copy.
He served as the Assistant Chief until Ott Cribbs retired in 1971 and then was promoted to Police Chief. He retired from APD in 1981. He has fond memories of working with Chief Cribbs and greatly respected him. But he also stated that Cribbs allowed Perry to un-officially run the department, especially in the later years. He was quick to add, “of course, that was fine with me!” Perry stated there was a consideration at one point of making he and Chief Cribbs “co-chiefs”, but he (Perry) knew that would never work and it was not implemented.
I provided the Chief a copy of the first 600 ID numbers in order to help him remember any of those early officers who may have became police chiefs in other agencies. He looked at the list as he talked and added anecdotes about at least every other employee on the list. He was very gracious and stated only his positive memories of employees, even those that I know he has negative memories of. It was interesting that he repeated three phrases as he described the majority of the officers:
- “He was a good policeman.”
- “He was honest, very honest.”
- and some reference to the officer’s physical size, “He was big!” or “He was really big!”
When I asked him to name his best memories of his tenure at APD, he replied:
- Protecting the Oswald family after the assassination of President Kennedy.
After the assassination, the FBI and Secret Service took Marina Oswald (Lee Harvey’s wife), her two daughters (a baby and a toddler), Mrs. Marguerite Oswald (Lee’s mother), and Robert Oswald (Lee’s brother) into custody. It was a combination of protective custody and to determine their role (if any) in the assassination. A Secret Service Agent, Charles Kunkle, had previously been an APD Officer. He called upon Chief Perry for assistance in securing an Arlington location for the Oswalds, away from the media and outside of Dallas. A suite of rooms were secured in the Inn of the Six Flags (then located near the northeast corner of Lamar and Hwy. 360.). A team of 5-6 APD officers provided 24/7 security (along with Secret service and FBI). APD Officers delivered baby formula and diapers to Marina. Chief Perry described Marina and Robert as very polite, but the mother as “crazy’. He stated Marguerite was perhaps jealous of the attention Marina was getting and once pulled a large knife from her purse in a threatening manner. Officers removed the knife. The detail lasted a “week or two”. Perry stated he personally ran the detail with Bob Parsons #006, Jess Gann #019, Jim Roberts, and a few other officers he could not recall.
2. Meeting famous people.
§ John Wayne – In 1967, John Wayne was in the Metroplex to promote his movie “The War Wagon”. Wayne rented a suite of rooms at the Inn of the Six Flags and stayed several days. APD officers provided security. Perry stated he spent time with John Wayne and they “hit it off”. Perry stated Wayne was actually larger in person than he looked on the screen. At one point, Wayne pointed at APD Officer Jack Massey #067 and stated “Now that is what a police officer is supposed to look like!” (Perry said Massey was known for his sharp appearance and for being fit). Perry said Wayne also joked about the female fans always trying to see him, stating “If they knew about my toupee and scars, they wouldn’t be so interested!” Perry has a photo of him and Wayne together, but could not locate it.
§ George Peppard, actor – He was in the metroplex promoting a movie and stayed at the same Inn of the Six Flags. APD officers provided security. Perry and his wife had dinner with Peppard. Both commented on how short and shy Peppard was.
§ Presidential candidate John Kennedy and his running mate Lyndon Johnson – When JFK was running for President (1960), he and VP candidate LBJ stopped briefly in Arlington at the corner of Abram and Center St. JFK stood in the back of a pick-up truck and made a short speech. Perry was present and overheard LBJ tell JFK “Jack, finish up and let’s get out of this one-horse town. Let’s get to Dallas!”
§ President Richard Nixon – Perry attended the FBI National Academy in 1965. Bob Parsons #006 attended in 1968. Perry attended Parsons’ graduation ceremony that was held in the White House. President Nixon, Mrs. Nixon, Attorney General John Mitchell, and his wife, Martha Mitchell were present for the ceremony. There was a reception for the graduates after the ceremony. President Nixon announced he and John Mitchell had another appointment, but that everyone could stay as long as they wanted and joked “just don’t go into my living quarters”. Perry stated John and Martha Mitchell argued in public (an interesting precursor of their future for you history buffs). Perry visited the White House kitchen and basement, looked at dishes from all the past presidents, stood on the front lawn and waved at tourists behind the front gates. He said they stayed three hours at the White House.
§ President Gerald Ford – He attended a Rangers baseball game and was very complimentary of the APD officers he encountered as part of his protection detail.
§ J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI - Perry met him on several occasions.
I asked Chief Perry if there were major crimes that still bothered him, or that he regretted were unsolved. Without a moment’s hesitation, he immediately described:
- The Cheryl Callaway murder at the Forum Mall in the early 1970’s.She was stabbed to death with an ice pick in the parking lot. Her murder is still unsolved.
- He remembered being criticized in the media for not solving a murder of a prostitute and having to write a letter of explanation to the City Manager. It was solved shortly thereafter, but he could not remember any details.
I asked for his memories of the “Cooper St. Streaking Riot” (1974), and he could not remember anything specific, other than he let Deputy Chief Retting handle it. Perry stated he put on his riot gear and responded to the scene, but left after a few minutes. This led him to spend a few minutes talking about delegation and how actively involved a Chief should be. He used the 1980’s Bowen Road shooting of two boys (and subsequent tactical/barricaded person) incident as an example. He said he wanted to get it over with and storm the house. But he deferred to the tactical supervisors and let them handle it.
In summary, Chief Perry led the Arlington Police Department during a time of great change and is an important contributor to our history. My interview with him reminded me of the great differences and also the many similarities between what APD faced during his tenure from 1956 to 1981 and today’s challenges. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to interview him.
Deputy Chief Del Fisher #0418