John Lee Stanton, Tustin’s first police officer

Chief John Lee Stanton

First published 5/9/23

The City of Tustin became a city with its incorporation on September 15, 1927. In January in 1928, the City Council hired Huntington Beach Police Officer John Lee Stanton to become its first Police Officer. His title, at the time, was Street Superintendent and changed to Chief of Police two months later. His salary was $45.00 per month.

John Lee Stanton was born on 4 March 1891 in Putnam County, Tennessee, the sixth of seven children of farmer James Stanton and Ara Belle Anderson Stanton. John was drafted into the Tennessee 45 Infantry and trained at Fort Thomas, Kentucky in June of 1918, just prior to the end of World War I. Before his discharge, he obtained the rank of Corporal.

The 1920 Census, shows the 28 year old still living with his parents on the family farm in Bloomington Springs, Putnam County, Tennessee. By September 1923, John and his brother William are police officers, together, on the Huntington Beach Police department. John married Kathryn Johnson in May of 1927.

When “Big John” Stanton (he was 6’5”) became Police Chief, he was the only police officer, and the police “station” was their family home at 515 W Third Street in Tustin. He used his own vehicle and answered calls 24/7, as well as serving as Tustin’s building inspector. Stories are that Big John liked to park his vehicle at the corner of El Camino and Main Street ready to catch speeding motorists! Amazingly, John Stanton would remain the only police officer for fourteen years until January 1942, when Noah O. Sagraves was hired to take the night shift and cover the days that Stanton was off duty. As did Stanton, Officer Sagraves had to use his own vehicle. In 1948, Tustin hired its third officer, and the City of Tustin finally had a police force!

Big John Stanton retired as Police Chief in 1942 and passed away on June 10, 1948. He is buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, California.