Germantown’s ’finest’ implemented a 24-hour patrolling program in 1962 under Chief James Allen and expanded the department from five men and one car to 12 men and nine cars. James ‘Jimbo’ Allen III, son of Chief Allen became Germantown’s first police and fire dispatcher on June 22, 1966. His brother Larry was a lieutenant on the Germantown force.
He was one of the real characters in local law enforcement circles. He also seemed to be involved in many of the department’s biggest practical jokes either as target or instigator. In a moment of anger, Allen once scrawled an “I Quit” resignation and hurled it on former chief Bob Cochran’s desk. Before it could land, Cochran grabbed it and wrote “resignation received and accepted with gratitude,” as Allen clamored for the paper, saying he was kidding. He was also known to prop his feet on Cochran’s desk while the chief was at lunch and claim he was in charge.
“I’ve seen this town grow,” said Allen. “When I first began working, we averaged three calls a day and now there are about 15 calls.” In Allen’s early days, a badge and uniform were not part of the standard equipment the city issued.
Allen’s first badge was given to him by Fire Chief Phil McCall and Otto Lyons, the first Germantown policeman to complete basic police training. Allen’s mother made his uniform.
Through the years, Allen, although not a commissioned officer, was promoted to ranks of sergeant and lieutenant in charge of dispatching and then chief dispatcher.
“There was an apartment (City Hall across from the Depot) where the Chief’s office is now. Pat Patterson (now a Public Works employee) and his wife lived there to man the radio when city hall was closed and I wasn’t on duty,” Allen said.
During his tenure, Allen worked under three chiefs of police: Bobby J. Massey, William Sterlin Maddox, and Joe Gagliano.
Bobby Lanier was fire chief until Chief McCall took over.
“I used to ride with the fire trucks as they went on a call,” Allen said.
Chief McCall remembered those days. “Jimbo would take the call over the phone and run back to the firehouse and ride with us. He has fought some pretty good fires.”
Before the days of radios and full-time dispatchers, the volunteers relied on a simple system for getting to the fire. “Whoever got to the firehouse first wrote the address of the fire on a blackboard and took the fire engine to the fire. “The rest of the men would head for the firehouse at the sound of the alarm; they’d read the address and meet the truck,” Allen said.
“The old city jail (presently at Oaklawn Garden) was once a heavy steel cage with no floor. It was before I came here, but I‘ve heard the story that two drunks were put into the cage to sober up. Someone left one of the firehouse doors up, and the men pushed the cage across the floor and outside the building. The town’s only patrol car just happened to drive by in time to see the cage inching across the lawn. The men were caught as they helped each other out of the cage. One man lifted while the other climbed under,” Allen said.
Chief Gagliano says, “People in this town really think a lot of Jimbo. A few years ago, they bought him a car.”
Chief McCall explained, “A group of us met for coffee at Posey’s Drug Store each morning, and I think it was (the late) Bilbo Jones who had the idea. We collected money and bought a 1955 Chrysler. The group included Wayne Betts, Joe Munday, Mayor (W.A. “Dub”) Nance, George Friedel, Eason Hoppers, and Richard Watson.” Allen said he was surprised by the gift. “They called me on my birthday to come back to the bank,” he said.
Allen was on a baseball team coached by Mayor Nance. “Jimbo’s height (5 feet) worked to our advantage because his strike zone was so short, he was almost always a sure walk,” Mayor Nance said.
Allen moved to Germantown when he was in the fifth grade. “I haven’t always lived here, but this is my home. The police and fire departments are among the best in the country, and the people are the greatest,” Allen said.
Allen also endured physical problems through the years. He had numerous back surgeries and had been on dialysis for kidney problems, including cancer. He had been on long-term disability from the department since 1987. Cochran said, “the little man just had more suffering than anyone deserved.” Allen was like a brother to him. “I don’t know anything I could say about him, except I love him, and I don’t say that about many men.” Jimbo died at Baptist Memorial Hospital East of kidney failure at 47 years of age, leaving his wife Brenda M. Allen as well as his parents, two sisters, and two brothers.
Source: ‘Services Expand to Meet Growth’, The Commercial Appeal, Bob Beach, May 6, 1976
‘Jimbo’ Allen dies; G’town dispatch for fire and police’, The Commercial Appeal, Clay Bailey, June 11, 1994