NEWS COLUMNS

MONDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2014

DICK TRACY’S CHIEFS

By James Johnson

Originally printed in the Woodstock Independent
August 17, 2005

This month, Woodstock met new Chief of Police Robert Lowen. He is an experienced officer, inheriting the active and growing department guided in the past by Joe Marvin, Emery Hansman and other chiefs. The Chester Gould-Dick Tracy Museum joins the community in welcoming him.

Dick Tracy served under two chiefs during his career. Chief John Brandon (sometimes called Jim or George) ran the department in 1931. It was Brandon who appointed the young Tracy to the detective division following the shooting of Tess Trueheart’s father and the abduction of Tess. Initially he was just called “Chief,” and Chester Gould didn’t give him a name until 1932. Brandon and Tracy were sometimes at odds with each other, and on a few occasions, Tracy was demoted to walking a beat. Brandon also supported his hard-working detective, helped him through many encounters with the villains and made sure Tracy was cared for after being shot, stabbed or otherwise injured. Brandon served as chief until his resignation in 1948. By Gould’s chronology, Brandon would have been about 70 years old at that time. He reappeared in several strips after his retirement. In 1975, Tracy visited a garden store (with the clever name of “Lawn Order”) owned by Brandon. The ex-chief looked quite fit for a man born in 1878.

Pat Patton was appointed chief following Brandon’s resignation. Patton had been in the strip since 1932, appearing as Tracy’s partner and understudy. He wasn’t too competent at first and stumbled often but gradually learned under Tracy’s tutelage. Throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s, Patton and Tracy took turns saving each other from certain death from the traps set by Gould’s villains. During the famed “Flattop” series in 1944, it was Patton who stopped Flattop from shooting Tracy in the back. Tracy showed little reaction when his former partner was appointed chief, simply referring to him as “Chief Patton.” Even after Gould’s retirement in 1977, Patton remained chief of the department.

One other interesting officer introduced by Gould was Chief Weegel of the “B&H” Railroad. Tracy met Weegel while investigating thefts from freight cars at “Dale Crossing.” Since Gould was a regular rider of the Chicago and North Western Railway, he may have patterned this character after one of the railroad’s own police officers. This column writer was acquainted with several police chiefs (also called special agents) on the C&NW, including Ken Bourne, Charlie Miles, Dale Hahne and Len Smallwood. After the C&NW merger with the Union Pacific, Smallwood continued his career as a municipal police chief in Minnesota.

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“One little crook says he can get away with it! 120 million finger print files say he can't.”
- Chester Gould
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