Operating under the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, the South Carolina Highway Patrol is a law enforcement organization that concentrates on traffic violations. The State Highway Patrol was originally a field unit of the State Highway Department’s Motor Vehicle Division. The patrol began operation in 1930 with a sixty-nine-person staff, including forty-nine patrolmen. Originally troopers were given uniforms, badges, guns, summons books, and motorcycles. They received their first formal training in 1932. Motorcycles were soon replaced by cars, and in 1953 the patrol became a separate division in the department.

The existence and duties of the patrol were contentious almost from its founding. Governor Olin D. Johnston sought to replace the patrol with a state police force, as did Governor Burnet Maybank. Chief Commissioner Claude McMillian outlined plans to reorganize the patrol after pressure from Governor Strom Thurmond, but adroit legislative maneuvering by Thurmond led to legislation that gave patrolmen the same enforcement powers as deputies and required them to help sheriffs when asked.

The patrol also was under federal pressure to integrate racially. In 1967 a Newberry County native, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Israel Brooks, Jr., became the first African American trooper. Within five years six more blacks were sworn in. In 1974 the U.S. Department of Justice urged the patrol to revise its testing and recruiting program, and three years later the patrol accepted female troopers for assignment.

In 1993 the Department of Public Safety was created, and the patrol became part of it. By the first years of the twenty-first century there were more than nine hundred troopers patrolling the state’s highways. Patrol persons underwent extensive training at the State Criminal Justice Academy for hazardous duties.

Moore, John Hammond. The South Carolina Highway Department, 1919–1987. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.

Smith, Michael George. “A Historical Perspective of the S.C. Highway Patrol.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1997.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title South Carolina Highway Patrol
  • Author Robert A. Pierce
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/south-carolina-highway-patrol/
  • Access Date March 31, 2020
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date August 1, 2016
  • Date of Last Update March 23, 2020