Remembering When

by Jerry Person
Huntington Beach City Historian

Dedicated to the people of Huntington Beach and its rich past

Huntington Beach's First Elected Police Chief in O.C.


This week lets remember one of our more popular police chiefs of Huntington Beach and the first elected to that office in our county.

Harvey Lester "Les" Grant


Harvey Lester "Les" Grant was born on April 8, 1899 into a family of one brother, three sisters and a step-brother on a small farm in Williamson County, Illinois.

As Grant grew to maturity he gave up farming for his his first real job away from the farm with the Marion Evening Post newspaper as a type distributor in Marion, Illinois.

But after four years with the paper, Grant returned to the farm to help his father Wyatt Henry Grant in the operation of their farm. Grant would later work as a coal miner and a salesman for the Rockford Manufacturing Company.

When America entered World War I, Grant served in the U.S. Army before returning to private life in Marion as a clerk at a local hardware store.

It was not long after his return civilian life that he proposed and married married Bernice Felts. The two operated a grocery store and wholesale candy business for several years in Marion.

 The Grants decided to move to Miami, Florida where he took a job in the local fire department.

In 1927, the Grants moved from Florida to Huntington Beach where he would work for the Ring Oil Company and and later for the Standard Oil Company.

Grant joined our police department as a patrolman on April 1, 1930. Huntington Beach was still a wide open oil town with traffic enforcement problems.

When former Police Chief George Gelzer's two year term ended, the city council appointed Grant as their new police chief on April 20, 1936. Huntington Beach voters decided to make the office of police chief an elected office and on November 9, 1937 Grant became Orange County's first elected chief, receiving 915 votes against George Gelxer's 489 and police officer George Cox's 45 votes.

The Grants lived at 421 Sixth Street with their daughter Rebecca Jane.

He was a charter member of our Huntington Beach Lions Club and was active in our Masonic and Elks Lodges and our American Legion Post. Grant also belonged to the Coast Philatelic, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Footprinters Association, Police Officers Association of California and many other groups. Orange County Sheriff Jessee Elliott appointed Grant an Honorary Deputy Sheriff in January, 1939.

While attending the Newport Beach Parade of Lights in 1939, he was riding double with officer Vern Keller on a motorcycle that was involved in an accident which he never fully recovered. On May 12, 1941, Les Grant passed away at his home at the age of 42 and Huntington Beach lost one of its most popular police chiefs.

When he passed away our city needed a larger place to hold his service and the old Memorial Hall on Fifth Street was selected to hold the hundreds of city, county, state officials and local residents who wanted to attend his service. Not only was Chief Grant a popular Huntington Beach police chief, he was also the first elected chief of police in all of Orange County.

Reverend Luther Arthur, of the Baptist Church officiated at Grant's tribute service in Memorial Hall.

His pallbearers included police officers Don Blossom, Jack Tinsley, Gene Belshe, A.J. Parker, John Seltzer and Gayle Bergey.

Honorary pallbearers included Huntington Beach Mayor Marcus M. McCallen, Council members, Tom Talbert, Art Morehouse and Les Chamness. Other Huntington Beach locals included Judge Patton, Robert L. Stricklin, Victor Terry, P.L. Huddle and Harry Overmyer.

Officers Howard Robidoux and Elwyn Errington served as Grant's escorts to Westminster Memorial Park.

Many Huntington Beach businesses closed down from 2 to 3 PM on the day he was laid to rest with all flags in Huntington Beach at half mast in respect for their chief. Photo:HBNews