JUNE 25, 2004
Sgt. Tommy Bennett will oversee his last Houston Pride Parade on Saturday. He's retiring from the Houston Police Department. (Photo by Dalton DeHart)
Thank you, Sgt. Bennett
The last Pride Parade passes by on Saturday
for Sgt. Tommy Bennett, who will retire soon.
By BINNIE FISHER
As the last Houston Pride Parade float
rounds the corner from Westheimer onto
Whitney Saturday night, the organizers
will say "Goodbye" an old friend and a
parade fixture for the last 15 years.
Sgt. Tommy Bennett, the Houston
Police Department representative who
has helped coordinate security for the
Houston Pride Parade
Lower Westheimer between
Woodhead and Whitney
8:45 pm. Saturday
event since 1988, will turn in his badge
and gun before next year's parade. He's
retiring from the force.
"We're definitely going to miss him,"
said Nick Brines, president of Pride
Committee Houston. "He has been phenomenal."
Bennett has been involved with Pride
and other parades in the city since joining the Special Operations detail in 1988.
"Probably since the early 1990s, I've
been the one coordinating it," Bennett
said. "It's one of the biggest parades in
He said he appreciates the fact that
the Pride Committee seems to know what
it's doing when it comes to planning a
"It always seems to be well organized," he said.
Bennett joined the Houston Police
Force in 1966 and left for a few years to
work with a friend who had started a
business. But, police work was his passion. He decided his place was somewhere on Houston's blue line.
"It's been a good place to work" he
said. "I've enjoyed it."
During his time on the force, he has
watched Houston change.
"It's grown by leaps and bounds," he
Bennett said since joining Special
Operations, he's enjoyed the variety of
coordinating various events in the city.
He may not have realized at first that it
would mean becoming involved with the
city's Gay Pride festivities, but he said he
has grown to enjoy it.
"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "I personally enjoy going out there."
Brines said Bennett's involvement
ft Sgt. Tommy Bennett
Bom: Houston Texas
Graduated: Milby High School in Houston
Kids: One son
Tidbit Enjoys his rural property on weekends
with Pride begins long before parade
"He always does things like take mem
bers of the Pride Committee driving
around the neighborhood," Brines said.
On those tours, he said, Bennett talks
logistics with committee members.
On parade day, Brines said, Bennett
always shows up at brunch for committee
members and volunteers.
"He gives us a little pep talk," Brines
Bennett goes over last-minute concerns with the group and lets them know
that he can usually be found near the
assembly area during the parade if he's
"He's done a great job reeling in the
protestors and putting them in a little
protest area," Brines said. "He helps us
out with illegal vendors also."
Bennett said he tries to keep protestors in one area, and he warns parade
participants not to engage them.
"We usually have some demonstrators,
but nothing has really gotten out of
hand," Bennett said. He warns parade
participants, "Have your parade and
don't get in a shouting match with them."
His observation is that the demonstrators usually stick around for a few floats,
then lose interest and drift away.
Bennett said he appreciates the fact
that the Houston Pride Committee runs a
clean parade. While he said he wants participants to have fun, there are some dangers that he constantly works to point out.
Throwing give-away items, like beads,
from floats is more dangerous than it
appears to be. He said his worst nightmare is that a child will run out to grab
an item and get injured by a vehicle. With
more than 150,000 people converging on
Montrose on parade night, he said, "Our
biggest challenge is traffic control."
Bennett said he's found parade participants to be cooperative and Pride
Committee members to be serious about
helping him make the event safe for
"The folks are super nice to me, and I
treat them with respect," he said.
Brines concurred. "He's comfortable
and cool with us," he said.
When he leaves the force, Bennett
said, he looks forward to spending time
on rural property he owns.
"I've got a few cows out there." he
said. "If I get the chance, I might do a little hunting."