by B.C. Lyon, Retired DPS Captain
After the re-organization of the DPS in 1957, a committee was formed to further redesign the DPS uniform. The prior and 1957 era uniform consisted of a bluish grey, long sleeve shirt with high wool content , and tan pants with a stripe down leg. A tan cap was the official headgear.
The committee was then directed to design a more “Texas western style,” that would reflect the western theme of the Lone Star State. They decided a brown/grey material would be appropriate for the new uniform, along with blue piping (stripe) down the leg, and a western style hat for the new headgear. This new uniform color would be known as “Texas Tan.”
After graduating from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Academy in 1962, B.C. Lyon was assigned to the Highway Patrol and was stationed at Floresville, Texas in Wilson County. Around the same time, Wilson County rancher, John Connally was elected Governor of Texas. Shortly after his election, Governor Connally was severely wounded during the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Governor returned to his ranch to spend a lengthy time recuperating from the injuries he sustained in the Dallas motorcade.
Patrolman B.C. Lyon was assigned to travel to the Governor’s ranch for various duties, and to assist the patrolmen from the Governor's Detail that frequently rotated out of Austin.
While at the ranch, Governor Connally’s wife Nellie was observing B.C’s DPS uniform and made the comment, “there should be some color in that uniform because it looks “drab.” B.C. replied, “Ma’am, the DPS budget is pretty tight. We’re even using re-capped tires on our patrol cars, and limited to 100 miles per day for patrol duty.
A day or so later, Nellie Connally ask B.C. to drive her to Floresville to do some shopping. Nellie asked to be dropped off at a variety store that sold cloth and sewing materials. Nellie purchased long, 1” wide strips of blue cloth and 1/8” wide strips of red cloth. Back at the ranch, Nellie pinned the strips of material to one leg of B.C.'s uniform, and would sit back to view the results. After looking at the different options, Nellie said "I think the wide blue stripe with the narrow red stripes on each side looks best. It gives the uniform a little needed color." B.C. said it looked a little like a band uniform.
Nellie thought the shoulder epaulet should also be blue with red piping stripes and the old black tie should be replaced with a blue tie. Nellie was pleased the color made the uniform "stand out."
Not long after these activities, B.C. was transferred to Laredo, and didn’t think much more about having modeled for the Governor’s wife who was destined to add color to the DPS uniform.
Around 1968 all uniformed DPS officers exchanged their "drab" uniforms for the more colorful uniform of today. The long sleeve wool shirt became part of the winter uniform and a popham lite weight long sleeve shirt with a plain epaulet became the summer uniform shirt.
In later years, the DPS adopted a short sleeve, open collar summer shirt and currently has numerous styles of uniforms based on the duties being performed.
It is not known exactly how much influence Nellie Connally had on the change to the DPS uniform, but knowing how strong Nellie felt about the DPS and her wish for more color, it’s not a coincidence blue and red stripes with a blue tie are a part of the uniform today.