Between the Lines: ‘Terror on Highway 59’ still relevant today

By Melvin Hunt, contributing book editor

“Terror on Highway 59,” written by newspaper reporter Steven Sellers, was published in 1984 and later become a movie. It is based on the real-life story of the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office under the reign of former sheriff Humpy Parker.

The book spells out in detail the tactics and antics employed by the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office. Their activities eventually brought on investigations by the federal government.

Melvin Hunt, book reviewer

The use of Chinese water torture being implemented by deputies against people pulled over for minor traffic infractions on the highway is detailed in the book. The book sheds light on the fact that minorities, particularly blacks, and hippies who drove vehicles with a Shreveport, La., license or bearing a KLOL FM station were most likely to be targeted for the unlawful traffic stops.

The federal investigation ultimately led to the downfall of Parker, several deputies and a state representative, Jim Browder. Parker accepted a guilty plea to two felony civil rights charges and one extortion charge, and immediately resigned from office. Since that time, his name, particularly around East Texas, has become synonymous with abusive police tactics.

For years, copies of the books were in limited supply with some online stores selling them for hundreds of dollars. However, in 2008, the San Jacinto County Historical Society received the rights to republish the book.

“Terror on Highway 59” is a very good book. Be sure to read it.

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