Small Town, Big Heart

By: Alana Adams
By: Alana Adams

In the early 1960s, Carrabelle had a problem with tourists using the local pay phone to make long distance calls.

The solution came with the help of the Carrabelle Police Department who decided to use the booth as the police phone, thus the creation of the world's smallest police station.

In 1991, Chief Jessie Smith traveled to California to meet Johnny Carson and appear on The Tonight Show as chief of the world's smallest police station. Retired Sheriff Warren Roddenberry remembers fondly the day they watched him on television.

"He really came across real well with Johnny Carson, and Johnny, you could tell, enjoyed interviewing him."

There aren't many celebrities in Carrabelle, but 64-year-old Jessie Smith could definitely be called a celebrity. The retired chief of police gained national attention after appearing on The Tonight Show.

Smith died of a heart attack this week. Thursday, Smith's friends and family mourn his death, but laugh as talk always turns to his job as a police officer and the famous phone booth which now sits inside the Chamber of Commerce.

"A few weeks after that we went to Palatka on a fishing trip and we stopped by a steakhouse to eat dinner one night and the young girl kept looking at him and she recognized him from The Johnny Carson Show."

Lt. Joe Hamm worked with Smith on the Carrabelle Police Department. Hamm says he will be noticeably missed in the community.

"He was a good man, a good family man, good community man. He loved this community."

Smith served in law enforcement for 26 years and spent 10 years as chief. The Police Department now has a real station house on Main Street in downtown Carrabelle.

The city has four police officers working in association with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. While those who know him best remember stories and key trademarks, it's the phone booth that will always serve as a reminder of their chief and friend.


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