Arzo Carson, is a local man, who served his country well during World War II. His desire for education and understanding of logic was vital to the creation of The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Carson was born in Scott County in 1923 to a family of seven children. He recalls his first school being in an old church on tunnel hill, where he would walk several miles in deep snow to obtain his education. Even at a young age it was obvious Carson had a great desire to learn.
“The snows were so bad in those days, that the snow would last for a month,” Carson said. “The ice would freeze to my face, and the neighbors would call me in out of the weather.”
He went on to attend Oneida High School, where he played baseball, and was in the top of his class. After graduation Carson sought out to obtain some bookkeeping classes at business college, so that he could have a job in an office of sorts.
After the war began in 1941, an Army officer came to Carson in hopes of recruiting him into the Army Signal Core. Carson remembers the officer asking him if he was good at numbers, and providing him with a math problem and a sheet of paper. Carson says he replied to the officer in a way he hadn’t expected.
“I told him, I didn’t need his paper.” Carson stated. “I could do this in my head.”
Carson joined others selected in the Army Signal Core and developed a unique nomenclature system to be used in the war. He had hoped all along to be a Navy pilot, and desired a transfer. After some delay, in 1943 Carson went through his basic training, but was unable to pass the compression test required by pilots.
“I intended to be trained as a pilot,” Carson said. “I failed the compression test, because I was unable to change my thinking and actions quickly enough. It’s just something people are born with.”
He elected to remain in the Navy where he was assigned to headquarters operations in Norfolk, Virginia. While in Norfolk, Carson performed various services, and was eye witness to 24 Arial depth charges explosion in the Fall of 1943.
The war ended in Europe, and Carson was ordered to be transferred to Saipan. Before going, he was allowed a home visit for two weeks.
Carson was fortunate enough to have his visit home in those weeks, because during the time, two nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan.
After Carson’s two weeks ended, he learned the war had ended, and communications were sent from his commander suggesting that he would be assigned to duties in support of Judge Advocate General William R. James.
For three years, Carson worked for James processing and reporting offenses committed by sailors. During those years, James recommended to Carson that he should study law, so in May of 1946 Carson could be discharged to pursue a career in Law.
Upon returning home Carson went right to work in finding a school where he would study. He found it to be quite difficult because of the late timing, as well as difficult in obtaining his transcript from Oneida because the school had burned down.
Finally, Carson was able to find an honors certificate, and was admitted immediately to the University of Tennessee.
In 1950, Carson obtained his Bachelor’s Degree of Science, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Law. He continued an additional three years to obtain his Doctorate of Jurisprudence Degree. Carson then began practicing law, however his desire to learn continued.
“I continued my formal education by graduating from National College of District Attorney’s at the University of Houston,” Carson stated.
After obtaining an education, practicing law for several years, and having extensive experience in criminal investigation in the Navy, Carson was appointed as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Director by Governor Lamar Alexander in 1979.
He retained the position for approximately a year before experiencing some frustration with the system. He recalls feeling that it might be time for him to step down as Director, but he was encouraged to continue on by the State Attorney General by saying, nobody can do it, if you can’t do it.
During the time, he was home Carson drafted an act creating the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, as the people know it today.
He then retained his position until 1990 where he retired from the agency. In 2009, he was honored in Nashville with a State Public Act to designate the TBI headquarters as the, “Arzo Carson TBI State Office Building, and to the name Arzo Carson, “TBI Director Emeritus.”
The World War II Veteran, will turn 95 years old in January of 2018. Carson is considered a man of great value with a profound amount of knowledge. His service to his country was detrimental during the war, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations would not be what it is today without him.
Carson has been married to his wife, Shirley, since 1959. They have two children ( Jared and Scarlett) and two grandchildren (John and Mary Carson).