A ceremony Tuesday honored the founder of the Iowa State Patrol. Ola Babcock Miller’s recognized as the first woman to serve as Iowa Secretary of State, but many don’t know that during that time, early in the 1900s, she also created a small group of “motor vehicle inspectors” to patrol roads as highway fatalities began to rise. The program worked so well, it was soon developed into the Highway Patrol.
On Tuesday, a memorial service was held at Miller’s grave in a cemetery in the town of Washington and one of the speakers was Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Kevin Techau. Techau said, “some people dream of accomplishing great things, but others get up and do it.” He says when she established the Iowa State Patrol, Ola Babcock Miller laid the foundation for what’s now the premier state patrol in the country.
Another speaker was George Gallup, who’s not only the grandson of Ola Babcock Miller, but also the son of the man who created the Gallup Poll. He was presented with the Iowa state flag that was draped over the new tombstone by an honor guard.
Gallup said in an attitude unusual for candidates then and now, Miller saw no need to spend a lot of money on campaigning. She spent a few hundred dollars, he says, for a few printed posters and money for gasoline to get her from one speaking engagement to another. Elaine Baxter is former secretary of state.
Baxter said at the event that she’s been particularly interested in Ola Babcock Miller, ‘because I like to think in some ways I’ve followed her footsteps, but I was never able to fill her shoes.” Col. Robert Garrison is the Chief of the State patrol.
Garrison says students coming through “patrol school” learn among their first lessons who Ola Babcock Miller was. “You understand the history of the organization and what our values are,” he says. A new grave marker was dedicated at the event, with forty uniformed troopers standing at attention. Other state and local officials were there, including Washington Mayor Rick Cicalo who arranged the event.