HPD Legacy: 4th generation of HPD Murdocks gets his choice of badges, picks great grandfather’s

Tom Kennedy

The HPD roster has included one Murdock or another and twice there’s been two at a time – since June 5, 1945 – three fourths of a decade.

Officially, the Murdock names on that Houston Blue list, chronologically, are John Paul Sr., John Paul Jr., Steve and Travis. We’ll tell you the stories, again in chronological order, to best illustrate this four-generation family tradition.

John Paul Sr. was a merchant marine during World War II. When he got back to his hometown he got the urge to serve in law enforcement. So he went downtown to the HPD station, only to encounter – as the story goes – a rotund desk sergeant at the front desk.

 

Quick Patrol Assignment

 

John Paul got to the point: “How do I become a Houston police officer?”

The sergeant, Tom Sawyer, later a captain, also didn’t mince words when he said, “You look like a nice enough sort of a fellow. Come on around here.”

The area behind the desk led the eldest Murdock in the four generations to the drawer with the .38 revolvers and the nearby leather holsters.

Sawyer summoned a patrol car and provided instructions: “I’m gonna call a radio car to drop you off on a block downtown. Don’t let anything happen on that bock that you don’t know about. We’ll get you a uniform and some academy classes in the future.”

Today, Detective Sgt. Steve Murdock laughs when he reports, “That’s how my grandfather told me the story of “how I became a Houston police officer.’ There was no class number at an academy. They were so desperate for manpower back then because of the war, they took people and made you who you were.”

John Paul Sr.’s first day that hot June in 1945 must be written in red letters in the family history. The first officer in the family line received on-the-job training and quick exercises in common sense.

It must be noted at this point that it remains unclear whether the four Murdocks detailed in this story were related to Officer Dave Murdock, the 18th HPD officer to make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. That also happened on a hot June day – in 1921 when Murdock and his partner were met with a hail of gunshots while answering a domestic disturbance call in the Fourth Ward.  Dave Murdock died seven days later.

“We believe he was a distant relative because he spelled his last name with a K and not an H, but have been unable to find which root connects us on the family tree,” Steve Murdock said. John Paul Sr. had family genesis in Grand Saline, while Dave Murdock grew up in Bryan, 175 miles to the southwest.

John Paul Sr. was assigned to Patrol and Auto Theft during his approximately 37 years on HPD, retiring in the early 1980s. As a detective in Auto Theft, Steve Murdock recalled, “he had a photographic memory. He looked at the ‘hot sheet’ every morning. He was very good at finding stolen vehicles and would study the vehicles stolen the night before. And he would find them. He knew where the chop shops were.”

The third generation remembers his grandfather as “a kind-hearted guy, very smart. Every shirt he owned had little holes in them. He bought Prince Albert in the can, rolled his own cigarettes. My grandfather enjoyed the idea of buying his Stetson hats at the same place John Wayne bought his – Shudde Brothers that used to be across from Knapp Chevrolet.”

John Paul Jr. grew up on the northside, an only child who went to Reagan High School. He served three years in the Army and – like his father – went straight to HPD to apply when his service career ended.

“Dad worked at Central,” Steve Murdock recalled. “I don’t remember all the places. My grandfather was already on the department. Dad never talked about it (war stories). He wanted to be a solo officer so bad he could taste it. Because my grandfather said no they didn’t put my dad in the application for it. He (Dad) liked fast cars and motorcycles.”

John Paul Jr. served nearly 30 years, retiring as a senior police officer when then-Mayor Kathy Whitmire took away the tradition of cash payments for sick days, vacation days and comp time upon retirement.  Reflecting on one of his dad’s many lasting impressions, Steve quoted him as saying, “If you’re going to be a good officer you’re going to have know those general orders better than your sergeant.”

John Paul Murdock Jr. died last year. He had moved his wife and two sons to Magnolia, where Steve graduated from Magnolia High School and went to Texas A&M for two years. He “never thought about being anything else” but a Houston police officer. To speed up the process and get a degree in his chosen field he left A&M and went to Huntsville to serve as a prison guard at Ellis One – Maximum Security/Death Row for two years before earning a Criminal Justice Degree from Sam Houston State University.

 

A Choice of Badges

 

Following the Murdock pattern, he got to the Houston Police Department as soon as he could, being 21 when he entered the HPD Academy. His dad retired in 1988 and he got into the academy in 1992.

Steve Murdock field trained at Westside and stopped off at Northeast before finding his niche at North Shepherd. After 15 years there he became a street sergeant at Northeast again then a few years at Special Operations and finally as a detective sergeant in the Homicide Division.

“I applied to Homicide and went there a week after I went into my 20th year,” Steve said. “It was Sept. 1, 2012. I’ve been there ever since.”

He told the Badge & Gun he is 49 years old but quickly pointed out, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” We will report to you that the third of three HPD Murdocks from the same family has lots of quality mileage that he needs to pass on wisdom to – yes! – the fourth generation of Blue.

Exactly like his great-grandfather, grandfather and father, Travis Murdock, who turned 21 in the academy, got here as soon as he could.

After graduating from high school in Tomball as a home schooler, Travis earned a degree in Criminal Justice and Theology from Wayland Baptist University way out in West Texas (Plainview), graduating summa cum laude in only three years.

Yes, sir, as soon as he got that degree in hand he applied to HPD. He graduated late last year and his dad pinned on the badge, which was 9000-and something.

We’ll let Travis tell you the story.

“Growing up I saw my dad going to work and knew all about his career and lifestyle. He was a practicing Christian serving others. When you have seen your dad use the teachings of Christ to use in his work as a Houston police officer every day – that basically ruffed off on me.

“It seems like a great way to help people and ministering to others. Seemed like a great career. He would always say that he was pretty confident that everything would be all right.”

Then, too, Travis has been taught all his life about his grand father and great grandfather. As for John Paul Sr., he heard “nice things about abpit jpw je [atrp;;ed amd ;ppled i[ tp [ep[;e/ Dad told me how much he influenced him.”

At this point let’s go back to the badges in the first three generations. John Paul Sr. wore Badge No. 113. John Paul Jr. had a number with a ring to it – Badge No. 1920.

Steve said a prayer he would get a great number and believes his original badge number was answered prayer from God.

He explained: “God likes 3s and 7s.” Indeed, the Bible well documents these numbers in both the Old and New Testaments.

Coincidentally, the department issued Steve Murdock Badge No. 3737! “It was confirmation from God that I was right where He wanted me to be,” the detective sergeant stated.

Now then, legacies in the Houston Police Department are entitled to wear the same badge number worn by a forebear. There are dozens of stories, among them that of the late Solo Motorcycle Officer Jim Kelley’s Badge No. 1.

At Travis Murdock’s graduation, his dad pinned on his four-digit badge and turned to Police Chief Art Acevedo and said of the badge choice, “He didn’t want my badge number; he didn’t want his grandfather’s badge number.  He wanted his great grandfather’s badge number.   The chief thought that was pretty funny.”

Badge orders arrive at 1200 Travis only a few times a year. An order arrived the week of Feb. 22 that enabled two legacies to get their new badges. Besides Travis’ No. 113, Officer Jason Robles Jr. got the badge of his dad, Jason Sr. in the same batch.

The HPD traditions – and those great legacies – go on and on.