Late last month on its Facebook page, the Iowa State Patrol remembered the April 29, 1936, death of Patrolman Oran “Nanny” Pape (pictured in the Iowa State Patrol photo), who died in Muscatine County.
Pape was traveling around 5 p.m. on April 28 on former Highway 61 near Fairport when he stopped a car he believed to have been stolen. As he approached the car, the driver, Roscoe Barton, a 23-year-old parolee from Davenport, pointed a gun at Pape and ordered him into the car.
As they traveled down the highway, Pape grabbed Barton and the two men struggled. Two shots were fired.
One bullet struck Barton in the head, and he died instantly. The other went into Pape’s abdomen and groin, seriously wounding him. But he was able to stagger out of the car and hail a passing vehicle for help.
He was rushed to Hershey Hospital in Muscatine, where doctors tried in vain to save him. But he died early the next day, the first member of the patrol to die in the line of duty and the only officer murdered.
Pape’s death made national news. One reason was his past success as a star football player at Dubuque High School and the University of Iowa. He also had played football for the Green Bay Packers and was a part of the 1930 NFL championship team.
In a page one story with a headline that read “Former Grid Star Killed,” the April 30, 1936, edition of the Lancaster (Ohio) Eagle- Gazette said, “State Highway Patrolman Oran H. Pape — former University of Iowa football star who has proved as heroic in a gun battle as he was on the gridiron — succumbed early today to a wound inflicted by a bandit he killed.
“The ‘climax runner’ of the Hawkeye eleven died after an emergency operation and a blood transfusion a few hours after he slew Roscoe R. Barton, 23, in a hand to hand fight yesterday.”
Iowans donated money to Pape’s widow after his death.
“Mrs. Oran Pape, widow of the first Iowa highway patrolman to be killed while on duty, will receive over $1,000 from citizens of Iowa as a token of their sympathy,” said a wire service article that appeared in the June 19, 1936, Alton (Iowa) Democrat and other newspapers. “The fund has been collected by a Des Moines newspaper and made up of donations from hundreds of Iowa persons.”
The Iowa Highway Patrol, now known as the Iowa State Patrol, was a relatively new organization when Pape served. Pape, who had badge no. 40, was one of the 50 original troopers.
An article in the October 18, 1936, Cedar Rapids Gazette noted that the patrol first started to function Aug. 1, 1935, and that its future was up to the next Legislature.
“It is not a question of whether the patrol shall be retained—that
has been pretty thoroughly settled by the first year’s record — but concerns the problem of expanding the organization.
“Advocates of the highway patrol, persons who have watched it function during the first year of life and noticed the decrease in Iowa traffic accidents, are demanding that the present force be at least doubled.”
In 2012, the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) and elected officials honored the legacy of Patrolman Oran “Nanny” Pape by renaming the DPS Building the Oran Pape State Office Building.
Also named in Pape’s honor that year was the westbound Iowa 80 bridge over the Cedar River at mile marker 265.
Copyright 2015 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece was submitted as a news story to the North Scott Press, Eldridge. Iowa, and the Advocate News, Wilton, Iowa.