Trains, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Manchac bridge wouldn’t normally find themselves in the same conversation, but in the eyes of Tangipahoa Parish they all share one connection…..Tommy Davidson.
Since the 1960s, Thomas “Tommy” Davidson has been a figure in public safety throughout Tangipahoa Parish and across the globe.
A 1965 graduate of Hammond High School, Tommy was active in FBLA, Safety Council and was a member of the Basketball and Track teams. During his time in the Marine Corps, Tommy served as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician in the Vietnam War. While serving state-side, Tommy worked as a bodyguard and driver for General Chesty Puller, and even deployed as part of a detachment to guard President Richard Nixon when he visited his home, “The Western Whitehouse”, in San Clemente, California.
After serving in Vietnam, Tommy re-enlisted as a military firefighter and ran an airport fire department in California. Upon returning home, Tommy joined the Hammond Fire Department as a volunteer and went to work for Sheriff Tom Sanders as a full-time jailer. At the time, the parish jail was still on the third floor of the current Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse.
When Sheriff Frank Edwards, Jr. was elected and took office in 1969, Tommy served the department as both a Patrol Sergeant and the Communications Supervisor. During these years Tommy had a front row seat to several historical incidents, including the collapse of the Manchac Bridge on September 14, 1976 when a section of the Pass Manchac bridge collapsed after it was rammed by a barge. That destruction caused three vehicles to fall into the water, and only two survivors were found. Tommy was one of the first to arrive at the horrific scene. Just over a year later on October 20, 1977, Tommy and many other Tangipahoa first responders found themselves helping dig through rubble at the crash site of Lynyrd Skynyrd, when the band’s passenger aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed in a wooded area near Gillsburg, Mississippi. Included in his massive personal collection of local history, you can even find photos of the crash site taken by Tommy himself.
When Sheriff Frank Edwards, Jr. left office in 1980 and returned to his law firm, Tommy tagged along becoming a private investigator for the former Sheriff, as well as former Hammond Mayor, Tom Anderson, who also had a law firm. During this time the Louisiana State Police began introducing crash investigation and crash reconstruction to their recruits. Having a self-taught experience in this field before it was a requirement by all law enforcement officers, Tommy helped to develop the original training program at the State Police Academy for what would become modern day crash reconstruction.
Tommy would continue to do PI work until 2004 when he returned to the Sheriff’s Office upon Sheriff Daniel Edwards being elected. During his tenure with Sheriff Daniel Edwards, Tommy assumed the role of Technology Director and Radio Technician. In this role he was responsible for managing the agency’s entire computer network and radio communications system.
In 2018, Tommy transferred out of this role full-time and continued his service to the department in the capacity of department historian.
Tommy married Carla Rae MacLean of New Orleans, LA in November 1971, and together spent the next 51 years of their lives residing in Hammond. Having never had children, Tommy would often relish in the fact that the Sheriff’s Office was their family. Those who knew Tommy were aware that he struggled with Parkinson’s Disease for many years, however, he never let his ailment stop him from doing what he loved. Sadly, Tommy passed away peacefully at the Ponchatoula Care Center yesterday evening at the age of 75, after being in hospice for just shy of two weeks.
On behalf of Sheriff Daniel Edwards and the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office family, we ask that you please keep Mrs. Carla in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.