HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – For years, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee has been personally interested in preserving history.
Gee has saved everything from old equipment to the Rolodex once used by crime boss Santo Trafficante, Jr. Thursday the sheriff’s office opened a history center that is dedicated to displaying some of the artifacts of the past.
From uniforms and badges to radios and equipment used by some of the early deputies.
“I would see this stuff and it would get marked for destruction and this stuff goes way back sometimes, 20s, 30s and 40s and then of course sometimes the old timers would give me an old badge and say, hold on to this and say it’s kind of neat, there’s not many of these around,” said Sheriff Gee.
Much of the collection is donated by families who have relatives who once served as sheriff’s deputies. Dorothy Wilder Alster donated a uniform and family photos of her husband Ben. She first met him when Ben was a member of the Coast Guard serving in World War II.
“Well, he was a wonderful man,” said Alster.
Sergeant Ben Wilder was killed in the line of duty as he attempted to serve a warrant in 1962.
“He turned to leave and the husband was behind the door and he shot him with that shotgun right there,” said Alster.
The shotgun used in the crime is on display along with newspaper headlines about the murder. Joanna Martin and her family donated items from her grandfather and great-grandfather. Her great-grandfather served as the Sheriff of Hillsborough County in 1885 and saved jail records and other items from his years of service. One jail log even shows an entry reflecting the arrest of Vicente Martinez-Ybor.
As a child Martin would look through the jail logs, finding out why some of the towns famous and not so famous residents were sent to jail. Sheriff Gee is just happy that the history is now on display.
“You hear about it a little bit and sometimes the newspapers touch on it, but here you can see some of the real stuff, we still have. It’s been in our evidence room, some of this stuff goes back 60,70 80 years you know, people ought to come down here and take a look at it,” said Gee.