Sunday, May 17, 2009
Former Sheriff Biscailuz Dies ; Held County Posts 50 years
Sheriff William I. Traeger
Right Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz
Eugene Warren Biscailuz (1883-1969)
Sheriff Biscailuz was born in Boyle Heights on March 12, 1883. He was
educated in the Los Angeles public schools, attended the old St. Vincent's
College and the University of Southern California School of Law.
He was the son of Martin Biscailuz, for
many years a Los Angeles attorney of
high standing. Martin Biscailuz was
of French-Basque lineage and a native
son, being born on a ranch in
Los Angeles County. Martin's wife,
Sheriff Biscailuz's mother, was
Ida Rose Warren, a descendant of one
of the oldest Spanish families on the
entire West Coast. Her father,
William Warren, was a native of
New York State who sailed around
the Horn to California and before
the Civil War had wed the beautiful
daughter of a Spanish Don.
William Warren was the first
Los Angeles City Marshal in 1870,
and was killed in a gun battle where
the present Los Angeles City Hall is
In 1907 he was sworn in as a deputy
sheriff by then Sheriff William A. Hammel. At the time of his appointment, Biscailuz
was the 27th Deputy in the Department of Sheriff.
His knowledge of the law and his interest in law enforcement had much to do with his
steady rise through the ranks of the Department to the position of Chief Civil Deputy
which position he held until 1921.
In 1921, Sheriff William I. Traeger appointed Eugene Biscailuz as his Undersheriff in
recognition of his outstanding performance in the Department and demonstrated
executive ability. Gene served in this capacity until August 14, 1929, at which time he
was summoned by C.C. Young, then Governor of California, to Sacramento where he
was asked to form the California Highway Patrol.
Being appointed Superintendent of the California Highway Patrol, Biscailuz proceeded
to organize the vast highway patrol system for the entire State of California that still
exists today. Within two years he had a program proceeding satisfactorily and returned
to Los Angeles on March 12, 1931, to re-assume his post as Undersheriff of Los Angeles
Biscailuz served in this capacity until December 1, 1932, at which time he was appointed
Sheriff by the County Board of Supervisors to complete the term of Sheriff Traeger who
had been elected to the United States Congress. Two years later, the people of Los
Angeles County elected him Sheriff. Biscailuz held this office until June 3rd, 1958,
when Undersheriff Peter Pitchess was elected Sheriff.
During his lengthy career in law enforcement, Sheriff Biscailuz has participated in many
cases of international and national interest. His most memorable case, among the many
headline crime dramas in which he played a leading role, was that of Clara Phillips, the
beautiful Tiger Girl who, in 1922, battered her young love rival, Alberta Meadows, to
death with a hammer. Apprehended by Biscailuz in Arizona, Clara was convicted of
second degree murder and sentenced to 10 years to life. While waiting action on her
appeal, she escaped from the old County Jail with the help of an adventurous admirer.
Soon she popped up in Honduras, where she was held for American authorities. Sheriff
Traeger dispatched the Spanish-speaking Biscailuz with his wife, Willete, who was sworn
in as a special matron, to bring the fugitive back. Arriving in Honduras, Gene found
that Clara had become a national heroine and was courted by half the gallants of the
capital, including a high government official. Further, the extradition papers hadn't
arrived from Washington and while he waited, a local revolution was brewing.
With his every move reported in international headlines, Biscailuz, through his
persuasive gift of diplomacy, finally talked Clara into waiving extradition, and he and
Willete rushed her secretly aboard a banana boat bound for home. Her new trial was
denied and she served her prison term.
While Undersheriff, in 1922, Biscailuz participated in a gun battle that raged when four
armed bandits attempted the robbery of the Union Ice Company. Three of the bandits
were slain by gunfire and the other was captured, convicted and sentenced to San
Biscailuz, in 1958, headed the largest Sheriff's Department in the world consisting of
over 3,100 highly trained man and women, ranging from uniformed radio car deputies
to plainclothes detectives. He administered a County Jail with a daily population of
over 3,000 and, in addition, was also responsible for the operation of two large
rehabilitative detention centers and six road camps. In 1933, Sheriff Biscailuz formed
the first Sheriff's Aero Squadron in this country. It consisted of 50 deputized reserve
officers who flew their privately-owned aircraft on Patrol, Search and Rescue missions.
Los Angeles Times
May 17 1969
County for 26 years and a [eace officer for more
that half of century , died Friday in his home at
Santa Monica. He was 86.
Mr. Biscailuz , who was voted the title " sheriff
emeritus" on his retirement in 1958, had been
failing health for some years and last December
suffered a stroke from which he never fully reco-
A shor , stocky man with wavy, fron - grey hair,
he is remembered not only as designer of the
Los Angeles County Sheriff`s Department , in its
modern form but, as architec, of the Callifornia
In 1920 , when Mr. Biscailuz, was undersheriff to
the late Sheriff William I. Traeger, California Gov,
C. C. Young called upon him to reorganize the old
State Motor Patrol.
As first superintendent, of the California Highway
Patrol,he developed , the patrol into an efficient
statewide law enforcement agency and it became a
model among state police organizations.
Mr. Biscailuz also pioneered development of honor
farms and honor ranch in which trustworthy prisoners
are given outdoor work and a chance for rehabilitation.
institutions of the kind have been adopted in many
parts of the country.
Mr. Biscailuz began his long career as sheriff in 1932
amid a demonstration , of the popularity which he
enjoyed throughout his life.
Sherif Traeger was elected to Congress , an he Board of
County Supervisors was deluged with petitions hearing
thousands of signatures . Mr. Biscailuz as its successor
The appointment was voted , and in 1924 Mr. Biscaliluz
was elected by a huge majority to succeed . It was the
first of its reelections, in 1938. 1942 , 1946 , 1950, and
1954, in which Mr. Biscailuz ran perennially without oppo-
His long tenure was interrupted only once, 1943 - 1944
when as a naval reservist. Mr. Biscaliluz was called to active
duty . He advanced to the rank of commander with the
Naval District intelligence office.
SON OF ATTORNEY
His father was Martin Biscailuiz an attorney of French- Basque
lineage who was born on a Los Angeles County ranch, and
his mother was Ida Rose Warren , born on the site of the pre-
sent Hall of Records.
Mr Biscaliluz uz was born in a house in Boyle Heights . He
attended Los Angeles schools then was graduated by St. Vicents`s
College , now Loyola University . He subsequently studied law
at the University of Southern California.
Chief U. S. District Judge Thurmond Clarke recalled Friday that
" when Gene studied for the bar examination he was tutored by
my late father Superior Judge Robert M. Clarke."
BECAME SHIPPING CLERK
Mr. Biscailuz did not take up the practice of law , however. Instead
he worked briefly as a shipping clerk in Los Angeles and San Fran-
cisco. then on Jam 7 1907, he was appointed a foreclosure clerk in
the civil division b Sheriff William A. Hammel.
In after years he liked to recall that he was 24 years at the time and
that the appointment was " temporary " , adding that , " it was the
longest temporary appointment any sheriff ever heard of".
At that time the entire department consisted of 25 man and one
Br. Biscailuz also like to recall that he cut quite a figure among the
ultramodish young men about. Los Angeles at that time .