J. P. Strom
Joseph Preston "Pete" Strom (July 31, 1918 – December 14, 1987) served as the Chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) from 1956 until his death in 1987. He was considered by many to be the driving force behind a movement towards professionalism in South Carolina law enforcement.
Strom was born July 31, 1918, in McCormick County, South Carolina. When Strom was ten years old, his father, Walter T. Strom, was elected Sheriff of McCormick County and held the office for 12 years. In the custom of the time, the Sheriff and his family lived in a house attached to the county jail. Known as a homespun raconteur, Strom said this time "living in the jailhouse" as a youth provided him an education in criminology. Strom began his nearly fifty-year career in law enforcement in 1938 when his father swore him in as a Deputy Sheriff.
As with other members of "The Greatest Generation," Strom put his career on hold to do his part in World War II by serving in the military. Strom joined the US Air Force and was stationed in France, England, and Austria with the Ninth Air Force.
After the completion of his military duty Strom continued his law enforcement career. He was sworn in as a Special Agent with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division in 1947 and quickly rose through the ranks. Strom served as a Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Acting Chief before being named Chief in 1956 by Governor George Bell Timmerman. Strom went on to serve as Chief under a total of eight Governors.
Chief Strom was known as a strong advocate of education for law enforcement officers and the expanded use of science and technology to solve crimes. Under his tenure, the crime laboratory was significantly expanded and computerized crime information systems were implemented. In 1968 Chief Strom oversaw the creation of the South Carolina Police Academy, funded by a federal grant and housed on the SLED campus. Two years later, Strom was successful in his efforts to establish a permanent state-funded institution to educate law enforcement officers, the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Strom served for many years as the Chairman of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Training Council, which governs the Academy. The top academic student of each class is recognized with the J. P. Strom Award.
Chief Strom's philosophy for enforcing the law reflected his respect for individual rights. SLED Agents to this day carry cards bearing Strom's credo: "Make sure a man is guilty before you affect his reputation, his freedom, or his pocketbook. Make sure that during your investigation you always assure yourself that you are the fairest juror a suspect will ever have.”
Strom was the recipient of many national honors, and served as the president of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Academy Associates from 1964-1965. He served as a special adviser to the International Association of Police Chiefs, and in 1973 Strom was in consideration to head the FBI after the death of J. Edgar Hoover.
Strom was noted for the "understanding, decency, and sensitivity" he brought to law enforcement at an event in 1979 attended by over 1,000 South Carolinians. The event raised $10,000.00 for the J. P. Strom Endowment Fund, providing scholarships to encourage leadership in law enforcement. The J. P. Strom Undergraduate Scholarship is available to University of South Carolina students in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement, leadership, and service.
- "J.P Strom, Law-Enforcement Chief, 69". The New York Times. December 17, 1987. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
- Morton, Mont (July 23, 1961). "SLED Chief Learned about Crime Living in Jail". The Florence (SC) Morning News. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
- "S. 1028 -- Senators Lourie, Patterson, Courson and Giese: A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION TO COMMEMORATE THE LIFE OF J.P. "PETE" STROM, OF COLUMBIA, CHIEF OF THE STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT DIVISION FOR MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS AND OFTEN CALLED SOUTH CAROLINA'S "FORTY-SEVENTH SHERIFF," EXPRESS SORROW AT HIS DEATH, AND EXTEND SYMPATHY TO HIS FAMILY AND MANY FRIENDS AND ADMIRERS". Journal of the House of Representatives, South Carolina General Assembly, 107th Session, 1987-1988. January 13, 1987. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
- "South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy - History". South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy - History. August 30, 2015. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
- "Honoring Chief Strom". The Gaffney (SC) Ledger. April 18, 1979. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
- "FBI National Academy Associates". August 30, 2015. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
- "West Leading Drive to Have Pete Strom Named FBI Director". The Index-Journal (Greenwood, SC). April 7, 1973. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
- "J. Edgar Hoover of South Carolina". The Index-Journal (Greenwood, SC). August 9, 1979. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
- "College of Arts and Sciences, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Scholarships and Awards". Retrieved August 31, 2015.