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Officer James Palistine Wylie
(Aug. 4, 1881 Nov. 29, 1911)

Traffic has always been a problem in Los Angeles, for different reasons at different times. In the early part of the 20th Century, the increase in motorized traffic on city streets created some unique problems and dangers. Not only did the loud gasoline engines frighten horses, but many pedestrians weren't used to the speed of the new vehicles, which were racing along the city streets at speeds up to 20 mph.

At busy intersections, the flow of traffic -- pedestrians, motorized vehicles, horse-drawn carts and streetcars -- was controlled by police officers, until automated traffic signals were installed -- which didn't happen in Los Angeles until October 1920, when the first automated signals were installed at five locations on Broadway.

By 1910, one of the main traffic problems in downtown Los Angeles was the congestion caused by streetcars, particularly in the downtown area, around the Pacific Electric Railway Company's central station at Sixth and Main streets.

In October 1911, the L.A. Times published the results of a traffic study done by Bion J. Arnold, an urban mass transportation expert from Chicago. Arnold estimated that 40,000 commuters were delayed by 5 to 40 minutes every day by the streetcar congestion and delays in downtown Los Angeles. He calculated the total time lost for workers making a typical $3 per day, and put the daily cost of the streetcar delays at $1.824 million in wasted time -- more than $45 million today.

Arnold recommended that the city install a new set of streetcar tracks on San Pedro Street, five blocks east of Main Street, to alleviate the congestion -- a plan unanimously endorsed by the city's Municipal Railway Committee, and also supported by Pacific Electric.

Arnold's report was of great interest to the city, the railway company, and those 40,000 delayed and frustrated city commuters. The plan was discussed, other options were considered, and financial reports were generated.

A few weeks later, on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 29, 1911, while city officials and residents were still discussing and debating the Arnold report on streetcars and traffic congestion, LAPD Officer James P. Wylie, 30, was finishing his breakfast at Linnie Crowley's restaurant at 649 S. Spring St.

After his morning meal, Wylie planned to catch a northbound streetcar in front of the restaurant, travel about six blocks north, report for work at the LAPD's Central Station at First Street and Broadway, and begin his personal mission fighting traffic congestion, as a crossing officer at First and Main streets, between the current locations of Los Angeles City Hall and the LAPD Administration Building.

James Palistine Wylie was born Aug. 4, 1881, near the small town of Million, in central Kentucky, a few miles south of Lexington. Wylie was the sixth of 10 children born to William Joseph and Martha Frances Cates Wylie. William Wylie was a farmer, and most of the children -- six boys and four girls -- worked on the farm until they grew up and moved on with their own lives.

By 1910, Wylie had moved to Los Angeles, joined the LAPD, and was living in a rented room in a small hotel at 814 S. Broadway. The following year, he moved a few blocks south, to 106 W. 10th St. (In 1932, 10th Street was renamed Olympic Boulevard, in honor of the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.)

In late 1911, Wylie was working out of LAPD's Central Station, and was assigned to the Traffic Squad.

After he finished his breakfast, just before 9 a.m., Wylie left the restaurant and ran out onto Spring Street to catch a northbound streetcar. He apparently didn't notice the southbound streetcar heading toward him, and he ran in front of it. Wylie was hit by the streetcar and knocked to the pavement.

LAPD Officers Michael J. Greeley and Walter Krug came to Wylie's aid, and the injured officer was quickly taken to the Central Receiving Hospital on First Street. Wylie was unconscious when he arrived at the hospital, and doctors suspected he had suffered a fractured skull.

Wylie underwent emergency surgery, but died at about 3 p.m. that afternoon. His funeral services were held at the Robert L. Garrett & Co. funeral parlor, 1237 S. Flower St., and featured an honor guard of Wylie's fellow traffic officers.

Wylie was the seventh LAPD officer to be killed in the line of duty, and the first to die as the result of a vehicular accident.

Wylie was also the third of four LAPD officers to die in the line of duty in 1911 -- after Officer Arthur Crusey in May and Officer Cecil Bowman in June, and before Officer Floyd Eiler in December.

Wylie's body was sent back to Kentucky, where he was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, in Nicholasville. He was later joined there by his father, who died in 1917, and his mother, who died in 1942, as well as two brothers and a sister.

Officer Wylie's sign is located on the west side of Spring Street, south of 6th Street. The date of his death is incorrect on the sign.

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