James Elmer Galbraith, 73, a much-decorated veteran of World War II and of service in the Philadelphia Police Department, died Tuesday [November 29, 1983] at his home in Kensington.
A Philadelphian, he joined the department in 1939 and was promptly assigned to the motor bandit patrol, a hard-riding group of motorcycle riders, a squad that the department eventually fashioned into the highway patrol unit.
When the war broke out, he joined the Marines and became a member of the [2nd] Marine Raider Battalion, an outfit that fought its way across the South Pacific. Generally, he was in the first assault wave at places such as Guam, Okinawa, Bougainville and Emirau Island.
He was wounded June 16, 1945, as the war was winding down. A few months later, he returned home and went back to duty with the motorcycle squad.
A cool, quiet man with a commanding presence, he earned the rank of sergeant and headed the highway drill team. In that capacity, he trained the men and guided the performance of those who appeared in the Hero Thrill Show each year.
He also led the escort teams for presidents, visiting royalty and winning athletic teams during his 22 years on the force. He was also the officer who gave rookies their motorcycle training.
John Harrington, a now-retired officer who worked with him in coaching the drill team during the 1950s and 1960s, remembered him as “a guy who could really make a motorcycle talk.”
Harrington, a sergeant who went on to become president of Philadelphia’s Lodge 5, of the state and national Fraternal Order of Police, described him as “fearless, one of the best riders the department ever had.”
Harrington recalled when he and Sgt. Galbraith led the motorcycle team in opening the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, when they rode in President Kennedy’s inaugural parade at Kennedy’s invitation and the citations Sgt. Galbraith won for breaking up holdups and arresting the robbers.
He was a “good sergeant,” Harrington said. “He was a fair guy and very good to his men. He was a man among men.”
In the years that followed his retirement, Sgt. Galbraith worked on the security force at Liberty Bell Park.
Surviving are his wife, Lorraine Hewlett Galbraith; his sons, James Jr. and Richard; a stepdaughter, Dolores, and four grandchildren.
A viewing will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. tomorrow at the McCafferty Funeral Home, 6711 Frankford Ave., where services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday. Burial will be in Forest Hills Cemetery.