Col. Frank G. McCartney
Col. Frank brought pride to the region
He crusaded for radar, which helped bring a drastic reduction to traffic deaths in state
By MARIGRACE HEYER
Col. Frank G. McCartney traveled a circuitous route to becoming Pennsylvania's top cop in February, 1959, evolving from a small coal mining town to the center of state government in Harrisburg.
McCartney brought pride to the folks of Carbon and Schuylkill counties when he was sworn in as Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner by Judge James C. McCready of Carbon County as Gov. David L. Lawrence, who nominated him for the post, looked on.
It was the dawn of a new era for the state police. With 20 years of experience as a state trooper, McCartney, 50 at the time, was eminently qualified for the position. He also worked for five years as chief criminal investigator for the state Justice Department and five years as chief of security for the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company.
One of the most noteworthy accomplishments of his administration took place in 1960, when he instituted an educational program to acquaint the driving public with radar. In less than a year, more than 25,000 motorists across the state had been clocked for speeding.
Nothing was left undone in his campaign for the legalization of radar, which was finally realized on April 28, 1961 when the General Assembly passed Act. 48, amending the Motor Vehicle Code.
Radar, and the use of plainclothes patrols, was credited with helping reduce highway fatalities by 255 deaths within the period from 1960-62. During the same period rose.
The Lawrence-McCartney team for highway safety was unmatched, according to Lt. Col. Philip M. Conti, PSP (Ret.) in his book, “The Pennsylvania State Police: A History of Service to the Commonwealth, 1905 to the Present.”
“The achievements will long stand as a tribute to those who wholeheartedly supported them in this area of public interest, Conti said in the book.
Col. McCartney was instrumental in changing the name for the state police training school, then known as the Pennsylvania State Constabulary. Not only did he campaign for the change, but he wanted the academy, which is now the finest training school in the country, to be housed in the finest building and have the highest quality instruction.
To ensure this goal he appealed to the Secretary of Education, Charles H. Boehm, to evaluate the training program and the capabilities of the instructors. The survey resulted in remedial measures being taken.
Instructors underwent special training conducted by the Valley Forge Military Academy Dean of Admissions, Temple University psychologists, and faculty members of the Eastern Psychiatric Institute and Millersville State College.
The training survey also indicated that improved quality of instruction would allow a reduction in time, so McCartney cut the training period from six to five months.
Gov. Lawrence dedicated the new Pennsylvania State Police Academy in Hershey, designed to accommodate 100 cadets, on June 13, 1960.
McCartney grew up in Coaldale,
spent married life in
Lansford, Mahoning Valley
Frank Gerald McCartney, a native of Coaldale, was born on March 31, 1908 to George and Margaret McCartney. George, a devout Irish Catholic, was born in Glasgow, Scotland. As a youth, he was among the Irish immigrants who sought their fortunes in the Pennsylvania coal fields. He settled in Coaldale, where he became a respected mining engineer. There, he married Margaret O'Brien.
Frank attended St. Mary's School in Coaldale, and was an altar boy at St. Mary's Church. He peddled newspapers after school to earn spending money.
At Coaldale High School, he was a basketball and track standout, but his best sport was football. He played an end position for the Coaldale Tigers until becoming sidelined with a knee injury, which plagued him for the rest of his life. A teammate, John “Gid” Gildea, went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Following McCartney's graduation from high school, he went to work at the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company colliery. He was so impressed by the state police he met in the coal region, he decided against following his father's footsteps in the mining industry and applied to the state police training school. He was admitted Feb. 1, 1931, and, when he showed exceptional skill in horsemanship, he was selected as a member of the prestigious rodeo stunt riding team. In later years, as State Police Commissioner, he lead the Pennsylvania State Police mounted detail in President John F. Kennedy's inaugural parade.
Initially, McCartney was assigned to Troop E, Harrisburg. He established himself as an outstanding investigator and, in 1935, was transferred to the Detective Bureau at Regimental Headquarters in Harrisburg. The establishment of the new State Police Bureau of Detectives, including the renovation of the State Police Crime Laboratory, made the department one of the best investigative services in the nation.
After his assignment to the detective division, he married the former Agnes T. Finn of Wilkes-Barre, a secretary in the Commonwealth's State Department, and the couple moved to Lansford. Mrs. McCartney was executive director of the Carbon County Planning Commission in the late 1960s and 1970s and spearheaded the construction of the Mauch Chunk Lake for flood protection for Jim Thorpe and as a recreational area.
The McCartneys resided in Lansford during Frank's tenure as state police commissioner, before moving to Mahoning Valley. After McCartney's death in 1973, Agnes remained in the family home until she retired. She resided in Sebring, Fla., for a number of years and currently lives in Richmond, Va.
The couple had five children; Mary Margaret, Patricia Ann (Dotter), Frank, Thomas, and the late Eleanore Marie (Regan).
In 1950, McCartney deservedly won acclaim when he spearheaded major raids on lottery and gambling operations in Luzerne county, which resulted in 70 successful prosecutions.
That same year, a death in his family brought him back to Coaldale, where he met with officials of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. He was offered a position as chief of security. Torn between a state police career and a tempting offer from the LC&N, he faced a difficult decision. The financial burden of supporting a growing family was the deciding factor. He applied for state police retirement in 1950 and began his new job as director of security for the coal company. He was responsible for company properties in several northeastern Pennsylvania counties.
Five years later, he was appointed chief special investigator for the Pennsylvania Department of Justice, where he won additional distinction as an investigator of exceptional ability. He continued to serve in this post until his appointment as state police commissioner.
To his dying day, McCartney took pride in the fact that there were no scandals during his tenure.
After retiring from the state police, McCartney became a banker and was one of the organizers of the Lehighton branch of the First Federal Savings and Loan. He served as its manager until his death on Sept. 7, 1973 at the age of 65.
More than 2,000 persons, including Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp and State Police Commissioner Col. James Barger, attended Col. McCartney's viewing at the Ovsak Funeral Home, Lehighton.
A funeral Mass was said at the McCartney family's parish, St. Ann's Catholic Church, Lansford. Hundreds of Panther Valley residents, many of them old family friends dating back to the years when the McCartney family lived in Lansford, lined the streets near the church to bid a final farewell to the fallen law enforcement officer.
Six Pennsylvania State Police pall bearers and 17 honorary pall bearers escorted the flag-draped casket to the altar as an honor guard of high-ranking Delaware and Pennsylvania State Police officers, troopers, and firing squad saluted.
He was laid to rest in the family plot in St. Joseph's Cemetery, in the White Bear valley of Summit Hill.