The distinguished career of Riley Simmons
From the book, “Some Gave All,” (coming soon)
Riley Simmons was born in Pollard, Alabama on August 5, 1880 to Richmond and Cynthia Simmons. Part of a large family, he grew up in the small railroad town near Flomaton. On April 22, 1905, he began what would be his lifelong career as a lawman when he joined the Pensacola Police Department. He began by walking a beat downtown. He did that for 10 years, proving himself to be reliable. In 1915, he was promoted to Mounted Officer, a post he held for five years before being promoted again to Corporal, then to Turnkey and Lieutenant. In 1926, he was promoted to Captain. On September 1, 1945, Captain Simmons was promoted to Assistant Chief, serving still under his old friend Willie O’Connell. He retired in 1947 after serving the citizens of Pensacola for 42 years.
During his long and distinguished career, Officer Simmons…
– went through the Pensacola Streetcar Strike in 1908, which saw many injuries and one death
– had the distinction of making the first arrest to use the Seldon Wagon for transporting to the jail – Joe Rogero on October 30, 1913
– Investigated the gruesome and, still unsolved, axe murder of Preston Pickern on July 4, 1926
– enforced the law during Prohibition
– served the citizens during the Great Depression
– held the line during WWI and WWII
– watched as fourteen of his friends – Sheriff Cary Ellis, Captain William Etheridge, Constable Mallory Williams, Officers William Burnham, R. J. Carter, Charles Bazzell, Chip Shackleford, Clinton Green, Archie Bowman, Andrew Schmitz, Tommie Hatcher, Edward Pursell, Bobo Connors and Louis Champa were killed in the line of duty
– was present during the murder of Officer Tommie Hatcher on January 15, 1939 and shot and killed the suspect.
After a few years of retired life, Riley was bored. But what does a 67-year-old man do when he had been a police officer all his adult life? That is the predicament that Riley found himself in. But it just so happened that his wife’s sister was married to the current Escambia County Sheriff, R. L. Kendrick. So, he joined the sheriff’s department. On February 22, 1953, he was working. He was working in a patrol car with the sheriff when he was stricken. He was rushed to the hospital and soon died…in the line of duty.
He left behind his wife of 46 years, Sallie O’Neal Simmons. The couple had five children: William, Kathleen, Luther, Irene and Juanita.
The old man who was the definition of law enforcement in west Florida, had been involved in hundreds of cases, seen many changes, and buried nine officers killed on duty was now himself dead – while at work.
Appropriate. An era had passed.
09011945 Website: The Florida Historical Society; Pensacola Strike and Riots, Acquired October 21, 2022, https://myfloridahistory.org/date-in-history/april-11-1908/pensacola-strike-and-riots