Captain Sam E. Owen, Jr.
A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Owen served in the army in WWI, and was discharged as a captain in the infantry. Prior to his appointment as the first Chief of Law Enforcement for the Highway Department, he was in the wholesale oil business. As head of the Highway Patrol, he was given the rank of "Captain." He resigned on May 2, 1934 to return to private business.
Captain George L. Young
George Young was one of the 'pioneer' patrolmen and had been made a lieutenant soon after operations began in October 1930. A graduate of Erskine College, he had been a star blocker on their football team. In September 1938, Captain Young suddenly died of pneumonia.
Captain E. Fleming Mason
After the sudden death of Captain George L. Young, Chief Highway Commissioner Ben Sawyer appointed E. Fleming Mason as his replacement. Mason had joined the Highway Department as a clerk in 1932. Only 29 years old, he had never driven a car, did not possess a driver's license, and had never fired a gun. Sawyer insisted, however, that Mason had the qualities needed to lead the Highway Patrol and appointed him Captain and ensured he received the proper training. As Captain, Mason emphasized training for patrolmen and encouraged them to think of law enforcement as a "profession" of public service (a new concept at the time). He is credited with coining the South Carolina Highway Patrol motto: "COURTESY...EFFICIENCY...SERVICE." Mason requested a leave of absence during WWII so that he might do war service with the FBI.
Captain Thomas P. Brown
T.P. Brown was promoted to Captain on April 16, 1942. He was a member of the original group of patrolmen hired when the South Carolina Highway Patrol was created in 1930. He had risen through the sergeants, and had most recently served as district lieutenant in Charleston. In March 1950, Captain T.P. Brown asked to be reassigned as Lieutenant of District IV (Florence).
Colonel James E. Poore, Jr.
Col. James E. Poore, Jr, (US Army, Ret.), in keeping with his military rank, was named 'Colonel' of the Highway Patrol on May 1, 1950. Although he had extensive experience in both the military and private business, Poore had no background in law enforcement. He resigned in January 1951.
Captain Tee Hutto
Tee Hutto was appointed Captain of the Highway Patrol in November 1951. Hutto had been with the Highway Department since 1924, serving as a license inspector and then as one of the first lieutenants appointed at the formation of the Patrol. Prior to joining the Highway Department, Hutto was both a Richland County deputy and a traffic officer with the Columbia Police Department. In addition to his law enforcement experience, Hutto served with the United States Army during the Villa uprising on the Mexican border in 1915 and in France during WWI, fighting in five major battles. He resigned due to health problems in June of 1956.
Colonel P. Frank Thompson
Perry Frank Thompson's law enforcement career began on May 22, 1939, in his hometown of Fountain Inn. After serving in the United States Army, he returned home and accepted a job as a policeman and was soon elected Chief of Police. Thompson joined the Highway Patrol on July 15, 1941, and quickly rose through the ranks. Upon Captain Tee Hutto's retirement in 1956, Thompson was appointed commander of the Patrol (first as captain, and later as colonel), a position he held for 21 years. He retired on June 30, 1977, and remains the longest serving commander of the Patrol to this day. At his retirement, Thompson was the longest actively serving commander of a state law enforcement agency in the nation.
Colonel William J. Seaborn
Major William J. Seaborn was promoted to colonel and commander of the Highway Patrol after the retirement of Colonel Thompson in 1977. Seaborn joined the Patrol on July 15, 1941, in the same class with Colonel Thompson. During WWII, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps, but returned to the Highway Patrol in 1946 as District II (Greenwood) commander. In 1968, he was promoted to the rank of 'Major' (the first in the Patrol). He held that position until his promotion to Colonel. Colonel Seaborn's time as commander of the Highway Patrol was cut short when he suddenly died of a heart attack on June 14, 1980.
Colonel Philip L. Meek
Major Philip L. Meek was promoted to colonel and commander of the Highway Patrol on June 19, 1980. Colonel Meek served in the United States Air Force during WWII and joined the Highway Patrol on April 1, 1948. After rising through the ranks, he was made Captain of District 4 (Chester) in 1973. In 1976, a new position as assistant director of field activities was created to which Meek was promoted and given the rank of major. Upon the promotion of Major Seaborn to colonel in 1977, Major Meek became assistant director of the Law Enforcement Division and remained in that position until the death of Colonel Seaborn.
Colonel J. H. “Red” Lanier, Jr.
Major J.H. "Red" Lanier, Jr. was promoted to commander of the Highway Patrol on June 30, 1987 upon Colonel Meek's retirement. After serving in the United States Marine Corps for three years, Colonel Lanier joined the Patrol on February 17, 1957. Lanier rose through the ranks and was appointed major and assistant director of the Law Enforcement Division in 1981. Colonel Lanier served as commander of the Highway Patrol until his retirement on August 4, 1990.
Colonel Ronald N. Alford
Captain Ronald N. Alford was promoted to major and appointed interim commander of the Highway Patrol on August 5, 1990. On September 20, he was officially promoted to colonel. Colonel Alford joined the Patrol on January 22, 1967 after serving in the United States Army for two years. Prior to his promotion to colonel, he had been Captain of District III (Greenville) since 1988. Colonel Alford served as commander of the Patrol until retiring in September 1993.
Colonel Alton T. Morris
On November 15, 1993, Alton T. Morris became the 12th commander of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Morris originally joined the Patrol in 1962 after serving in the United States Navy. He served with the Highway Patrol for 29 years, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel, before retiring in 1991. When Colonel R.N. Alford retired, Morris was brought back to lead the Patrol through its transition into the newly created Department of Public Safety. Colonel Morris again retired in September 1994.
Colonel James Caulder
Upon the retirement of Colonel A.T. Morris, Captain James Caulder was promoted to colonel and commander of the Highway Patrol. Before joining the Patrol in August 1965, Caulder served for four years in the United States Marine Corps. In 1972, he was selected Patrolman of the Year and in 1990 was promoted to captain, first of District III (Greenville) and then District V (Florence). Colonel Caulder served as commander of the Patrol until he retired in February of 1998.
Colonel R. Wesley Luther
Captain R. Wesley Luther was promoted to colonel and commander of the Highway Patrol in February of 1998 after the retirement of Colonel James Caulder. Colonel Luther joined the Patrol on February 6, 1972. He rose through the ranks, eventually becoming commander of District VI (Charleston) prior to his promotion to colonel. Colonel Luther served as commander of the Highway Patrol until retiring in September 1999.
Colonel Ralph L. Mobley
Ralph L. Mobley joined the South Carolina Highway Patrol on September 10, 1977. The son of a Highway Patrolman, his father, Sgt. Robert A. Mobley, was killed in the line of duty in 1979. After rising through the ranks, Mobley had attained the rank of Major of Field Enforcement before his promotion to colonel at the retirement of Colonel R.W. Luther in September 1999. Colonel Mobley served as commander of the Highway Patrol until he retired on June 1, 2001.
Colonel Michael W. Kelley
Upon the retirement of Colonel Ralph Mobley, Lt. Colonel Michael W. Kelley became colonel and commander of the Highway Patrol on June 1, 2001. Colonel Kelley began his association with the Highway Patrol as a dispatcher while still in college. In September 1974, he entered Patrol School and in succeeding years rose through the ranks through a variety of assignments. Colonel Kelley remained commander of the Patrol until his retirement in June 2003.
Colonel Russell F. Roark, III
Russell F. Roark III joined the South Carolina Highway Patrol in February 1982, dedicating his professional career to the Highway Patrol beginning in Sumter County. He rose through the ranks, attending the FBI Academy in 1996, being appointed captain of District 1 in 1999 and then lieutenant colonel in 2001. Through the years, he distinguished himself as an outstanding trooper and supervisor. He was named commander of the Highway Patrol in 2003 upon the retirement of Colonel Kelley, focusing his tenure on the wise use of resources, connecting troopers to the citizens they serve and creating a safer work environment for troopers. He retired from the Patrol in 2008.
Colonel F.K. "Kenny" Lancaster, Jr.
Kenny Lancaster Jr. joined the South Carolina Highway Patrol in 1988. After serving in Beaufort and Lancaster counties and with the criminal interdiction unit (then known as ACE), he was appointed commander of the Highway Patrol in 2009. As commander, Lancaster placed a specific focus on impaired driving enforcement and reducing DUI-related fatalities. Lancaster retired from the Patrol in 2011.
Colonel Michael R. Oliver
Michael R. Oliver joined the South Carolina Highway Patrol in 1982 and advanced through the ranks to become captain in 2004 over Telecommunications. Before his assignment to Patrol headquarters, he primarily served the Troop Four area. He was named commander of the Highway Patrol in 2011 and is credited with advances in training, technology and pay for the Patrol. Under Col. Oliver's leadership, troopers became trained in civil emergency response, mobile field force and active shooter to meet a rapidly evolving law enforcement culture. During his tenure, the Highway Patrol dedicated the Fallen Trooper Memorial Wall on the grounds at Blythewood Headquarters. Colonel Oliver retired in 2017.
Colonel Christopher N. Williamson
Christopher Williamson currently serves as commander of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Williamson, a Darlington native, began his career in Berkeley County in 1988 and primarily worked in the Orangeburg/Charleston region. Williamson ascended the ranks of the Patrol over 29 years, working his way up to captain in Troops 6 and 7 and then lieutenant colonel. He was named commander in 2017. Williamson became the Highway Patrol’s first African-American commander and is credited with connecting troopers with the communities they serve. He continues to work on expanding pay for law enforcement and ensuring troopers have the safest and latest technology and equipment.