Bobby Pate admits he was a spoiled child.
"I had three mamas: my mother, my grandmother and my
sister. If one didn't do it, the other one would. I was
spoiled rotten," he declares.
Born to Johnny and Nell Pate on June 26, 1948, he was 16
years younger than his sister, Helen (now Helen Vick of
Dyersburg) and 18 years younger than his brother, James,
who passed away in 1995.
He grew up in McKenzie, after high school working at the
Milan Arsenal where he made ammunition during the
Vietnam War. On March 25, 1968, he was drafted into the
Army and trained as a tank mechanic. Pate already had
on-the-job training in mechanics: "My brother also did
mechanic work," he says, "I picked up a lot from him
when I was a child."
After basic training at Fort Campbell and advanced
training at Fort Knox, Pate went to Fort Leonardwood,
Missouri where he was cross-trained in advanced medical
training before being assigned to the 36th Medical
Evacuation Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas. After a brief
interval in Dover, Delaware under attachment with the
U.S. Air Force, he journeyed to Germany for an
eight-week tour as a part of the REFORGER (Return Forces
to Germany) exercises. There, still attached to the Air
Force, he was stationed at the location of Hitler's
incredible underground hospital and airfield near the
Immediately afterward, in March, 1969 Pate was sent to
Vietnam after returning to the States long enough to
receive training geared toward preparing troops for
service in the third world country. Soldiers were taught
the types of weapons they were likely to encounter in
Vietnam, the nuances of the terrain, and "what you have
to do to survive," including learning some of the
Vietnamese language and culture.
"The culture of that country was so much different from
the United States. The living conditions were very,
very, very poor; the food was mostly rice," Pate said
In Vietnam, he was assigned to work in a huge supply
warehouse that was the first stop for all supplies
coming into the country from the United States. He
worked with 127 Vietnamese and 150 Army soldiers to
disburse supplies ranging from clothing, food and
medical supplies to ammunition. An additional item he
supplied directly was his own blood. Having the blood
type 0 positive meant that his blood was in great demand
"When the occasion arrived they pretty much knew where I
was and if it was where I could I would donate," he
said. He painted a picture of lying side by side with
the patient in need of blood while the direct transfer
of blood took place.
President Nixon began withdrawing troops from Vietnam in
July 1969 in a 14 stage-withdrawal program stretching
through November 1972. On the off chance that he might
be favorably received, Pate applied for a hardship
discharge due to the declining health of his parents,
his father having suffered a major heart attack and his
On the 17th of September, 1969 - the day after President
Nixon ordered the withdrawal of 35,000 soldiers from
Vietnam and a reduction in draft calls - Pate received a
hardship discharge and returned to the United States at
Oakland, California where he received his formal
discharge. While in service, he was awarded the National
Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam
Back home in McKenzie, he began working as a mechanic
for Russell Chevrolet and Oldsmobile.
"I worked at the Chevrolet dealership for 25 years," he
said, explaining that he stayed on at the dealership
when it changed to Gary Simmons.
Over the years, he and his brother maintained a garage,
as well, where they rebuilt old cars.
"I always piddled with building old cars; that was a
hobby of mine," he says, gesturing toward the 1929
Mercedes he currently drives. He also owns a 1941
Chevrolet pickup truck and a 1948 Chevrolet panel van.
When the dealership closed, Pate turned adversity to
opportunity with a change of careers.
"I didn't really want to locate to another town," he
says, "so decided I would change my field and went to
work for the police department."
It wasn't exactly a cold-turkey change of careers for
Pate who had worked as a part-time deputy for the
Carroll County Sheriff's Department and served two terms
as constable for the 22nd district beginning in 1976.
After passing a background check and meeting all the
other requirements for the job, he attended Donaldson
Police Academy in Nashville.
Pate answered the call of the UNMIK (The United Nations
Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) when police
officers across the nation were given the opportunity to
represent the United States in the establishment of an
international police force in battle-scarred Kosovo.
Beginning in July 1999 UNMIK police officers from 53
participating countries began serving in Kosovo to
provide temporary law enforcement.
One of only two Tennessee police officers to be accepted
into the program, according to Pate - the other being a
Tennessee Highway Patrolman - he went to Houston, Texas
for training, but didn't continue to Kosovo.
"I never did have to go overseas," he says, satisfied
with his work at home. "I enjoy working at the police
department; every night's a different night. We have
different calls all the time but we have a pretty safe
town, I think. There's lots of good men that I work with
- good people and we all work good together."
Pate goes on to say that the McKenzie's Police
Department works well with the Sheriff's Departments in
each of the three counties as well, with McKenzie
falling in Weakley, Henry and Carroll Counties. A seven
years veteran of the force, Pate, now a sergeant, is the
night supervisor for the department as well as serving
as the firearms training officer for McKenzie plus a
portion of Weakley County including Sharon, Gleason and
Greenfield, along with the Sheriff's Department.
Pate says he plans to retire "someday" and enjoy his
home on Kentucky Lake and his old cars. He enjoys
fishing and duck hunting which is a particular pleasure
when shared with his son on the farm Pate owns in the
bottoms of Cherrywood Road in McKenzie.
"And I enjoy my grandkids," he says, "When your kids get
out of school you think it's over but when you get them
grandkids it's just starting all over again." Of his
two-year-old grandson, Drake, he says, "He would follow
me to the jumping off place."
These days he spends a good deal of his time in the
company of Gloria Kee, who works as a registered nurse
with the Methodist Hospital in McKenzie.
"We enjoy traveling, going to different places - car
races or just different things, driving to the
mountains," he says.
Pate has two sons: 30-year-old Jeremy works for UPS and
is married to elementary school teacher, Gina Pate. The
couple has one child, Emma, and another on the way.
Joel, age 22, operates a backhoe for the McKenzie
Streets Department. His wife, Tammy, works with
Tri-County Realty in McKenzie. They have one son, Drake,
who is two years old.