When he pulls out of his driveway heading to work, this big man will be in a Ford SUV or astride a Harley Davidson Electra Glide.
Both sport the same colors – the tan and black of the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP).
The trooper is Grant Edward Gouldie (pronounced Goldie). The seat in the SUV is as far back as it’ll go. When he’s on the Harley, he describes it best: “I make it look like a scooter.” Gouldie, 32, stands out, standing 6-feet-8 inches. He is his 11th year in law enforcement and truly living his dream.
“I always wanted to be working in traffic and be a motor officer,” he says. “And that’s what I’m doing. The THP is the cream of the crop in law enforcement. I love everything we stand for and who we are and how we conduct ourselves. I’m out there representing you, myself and the THP and we hold ourselves to very high standards. To be at the THP is about as high of an honor as you can have. Who we are as people is a big part of what we do – our values and our character – and why we are troopers.”
Gouldie was born in Knoxville but grew up in Lake City (now Rocky Top), a 2008 graduate of Anderson County High School where he played basketball, football and ran cross country. Then Wesleyan College to study exercise science and play basketball. He had visions of being a chiropractor. He spent time at Pellissippi State Community College and then graduated from the Corrections Officer Training Academy and Cleveland State Community College’s Police Academy.
Why law enforcement? “It’s as simple as this and maybe you think it’s corny. It’s about helping people. I was called to this career. I believe in a higher power above us and the Good Lord called on me to get into law enforcement.”
His road to THP was not easy. As a younger man he spent a summer working at the Knox County Roger D. Wilson Detention Center as a maintenance man and gopher. It’s the only job they had open, he says.
Next was the police academy, then four years as an officer at the Oak Ridge Police Department (2011-15) and a year in 2016 at the Clinton PD. During those five years he also applied numerous times to the THP – the dream job. He was finally accepted by the THP and in 2016 entered its “lateral academy” in Nashville available only to applicants with prior law enforcement experience.
“The academy is based on Marine boot camp. It was very difficult.
I almost didn’t graduate because of pushups,” Gouldie explained. “You have to do 35 pushups in a minute and I failed it the first two times. I had just one more chance. I trained a lot. They were tough for me. You have to have your hands pressed in close and I have these big long giraffe-like arms and it was a struggle for me.” But the third time on the test was the charm.
Today he is the only THP motor officer in the Knoxville District 1 and he patrols Knox County. In 2021 he attended the THP’s two-week course in Nashville to learn how to ride the Harley. “It’s one of the toughest courses you have to pass,” Gouldie said. “The Harley weighs about 1,000 pounds and you have to learn the techniques of driving it. Tight turns in small areas, turning on the floorboards scraping the pavement. It’s tough mentally on you.”
The THP motor unit is known as the Falcons statewide and there are 25 motor officers sprinkled across the state. “When I’m on the bike I’m watching for moving violations, hazardous driving, cars cutting back and forth in lanes, seatbelt and hands-fee cell phone violations and working accidents,” he says. “If I stop someone I’ve got a good reason to do it.”
When he’s not on patrol he’s an FTO – field training officer. He’s training new troopers just coming on the job. It is a very important THP job. “I take a lot of pride in this. Since last November I’ve trained six new troopers just out of the academy and I have to get them ready to work solo out there. Big job.”
Away from work his priority is his family – wife Amanda and three kids – ages 13, 7 and 3. “When I’m off I want to put the same effort into the family as I do at work. I want to instill the values we have into the kids. I have a heart for the people we serve and those I work with.”
He’s passionate about most everything – even the creases in his uniforms. “The dry-cleaning people hate me,” he said, “because my uniforms have to be perfect. I take a lot of pride in appearance and how I go about my job.”
And how does he go about this high-stress, dangerous and important job? “I live my life on my morals and principles and coming to a job every day that matters to me. And more times than you think in these times in which we live, many people here thank me for what I do. I take a lot of pride in that and my work.”
Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia.