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Policeman, Unofficial Public Relations Man, Amateur Student Advisor

Fred Pennell

In 1946, amid the post-war boom of veterans going to college and the accompanying increase in people and vehicle traffic, the University of Idaho decided to hire a security officer. Fred Pennell was selected to handle the bulk of police work on campus and eight years later, he became the University’s traffic officer. His one goal was to teach students to walk in the pedestrian lanes (Argonaut, 16 Jan 1961).

Affectionately known as “Freddy the Cop,” Fred Pennell had collected several nic names: “Fearless Fosdick,” “chief,” and “sheriff.”

“I’ve received letters and packages from people who have known me here on campus addressed only to Fred the Cop, University of Idaho. Many have come back for Homecoming and hunted me up” (Argonaut, 19 Nov 1954, 16 Jan 1961).

The Argonaut hailed him as the U of I’s first and only traffic officer. He was also active in the University community, serving not only as a policeman but unoffically as a “public relations man, amateur student adviser and part-time greeter….” He talked up the University to tourists, visitors, and potential Vandals. He offered advice to students when prompted.

Idaho's 'Fred the Cop' is Friend to Many
Idaho's 'Fred the Cop' is Friend to Many

A well-known campus personality, he enjoyed invitations to houses’ dinners. Even the Home Management house had him over–It was a laboratory inhabited by students and an advisor. They lived at the house for weeks at a time, learning the practical application of home making principles. (Argonaut, 22 Apr 1966; 3 Dec 1957).

He even appeared in an Argonaut April Fool’s article: “Freddy … was afraid of the dark and his only weapon consisted of a Civil War service revolver….”

Fred Pennell chats with Scootch Harper. Argonaut article, 22 Apr 1966.
Fred Pennell chats with Scootch Harper. Argonaut article, 22 Apr 1966.

It was noted that in the fall of 1960, after a heavy snow fall swiftly followed by a downpour, Pennell was at his post at the Campus Christian Center intersection. He stood in ankle deep running water directing cars. When asked what his most exciting experience was, Pennell mentioned the time the WSU cougar was stolen (Argonaut, 19 Jan 1965).”

He disappeared in 1965 and was found at Gritman Medical Center. An illness had confined him there, but he soon returned.

“‘Freddy’ Pennell, University Traffic control officer, is recovering from one of his few illnesses in his eighteen year career here at Idaho….(Argonaut, 19 Jan 1965).”

Originally from Tennessee, Pennell had been a Whitman County farmer in Washington and a student at Washington State College (now Washington State University). He patrolled the Idaho campus for nineteen years. When his retirement was announced, the Argonaut described him as a “University Legend” (18 Feb 1964, 22 Apr 1966).

He spoke with the Argonaut about his career at the University of Idaho and coming retirement, reflecting, “A nice class of people to work with, something new all the time, and you meet people from all over the world, some of them very distinguished.”

Fred Pennell
Fred Pennell


“Baseball Bleachers Go; New Home Management OK’d,” Argonaut, 19 Jan 1965. “Campus Cop Recovers – ‘Freddy’ Due Back Soon”, Argonaut, 18 Feb 1964. Green, Barbara. “Friendly Life Story Reveal of Popular Campus Casanova,” Argonaut, 16 Jan 1961. “Gives 1300 Tickets at Idaho- Freddy to End 19 Years of Being Campus Cop in May,” Argonaut, 22 Apr 1966. “Home Management House,” Argonaut, 3 Dec 1957. “Idaho’s ‘Fred the Cop’ is Friend to Many,” Argonaut, 19 Nov 1954. Pennell protrait, PG 92 Hodgins Drug photographs. Townsend, Lee. “Campus Hit by Snow Tuesday, But Rain Washed Blanket Away.” Argonaut, 18 Nov 1960. “Under the Gun,” Argonaut, 31 Mar 1959.

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