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Grand Marshal John Carlson

The Tucson St. Patrick's Day Parade & Festival Committee is proud to have Tucson Police Captain John Carlson as the 2022 Grand Marshal. With his 25+ years of service to the Tucson community in the police force, John exemplifies the best of the tradition of céad míle fáilte, generosity and gratitude. Thank you, John, for accepting this position, your service to the community and for carrying the banner of this Irish tradition with grace and dignity. 


John Carlson

Ohhh look at the lot of you.....

Do you all know what today is?  It's March 15th...The Ides of  March. 

For those of you that did not pay too much attention in your ENGLISH lit. class...it is just a little  Shakespeare. It is the day that that the Soothsayer warned Julius Caesar to stay home, that danger was upon him. But if young Julius were here today I would tell him, “relax..., today you are surrounded by the luck of the Irish."

I'm truly humbled to be selected as the Grand Marshal. I want to thank the parade committee for this honor. Never in a million years did I ever imagine this. 

Growing up on Long Island in NY I had two favorite holidays. 1. The 4th of July and 2. St. Patrick's Day

Now I know St. Patrick’s Day is not really a holiday, but don’t tell that to the Irish.

St. Patrick's day to me was always celebration in the street. My dad is retired NYPD and I remember

watching the parade on TV when I was just a kid. I recall seeing the pictures, and best of all hearing my

dad’s stories...stories of my dad’s old partner Billy Cutter, the Lion he called him because of his big red

mane of hair and his round face, in full NYPD dress uniform, his 8-point hat turned backward, working

behind the bar after the parade. I think I knew then I wanted to be a cop…..

Then in high school some 60 plus miles east of the city, the parade would go down main street in our little town. It was like something you see in the movies, small town America. My high school buddies and I beginning to enjoy the "spirit" of St. Patrick’s Day just a little more now if you know what I mean…It was not really until I got a little older that I was able to appreciate and understand the meaning of it all a little bit better.

So, When Murph first called me, I thought he was pulling my leg. My first question to him was, "why me, heck my last name is not O'Brien or Lafferty, surely there has to be someone more Irish around?  My last name is Swedish.” Of course he laughed, like a good Irishman always does, and told me that my dear friend Jack nominated me, and the committee agreed, it had been decided! In the days and weeks following everyone seemed excited for me. I wasn’t so confident, but I was humbled.

I've spent the entirety of my adult life in public service. First, in the US Navy where I spent 6 years as a Nuclear Machinists Mate serving in the first Persian Gulf War.  Now I have just surpassed my 25th year with the Tucson Police Department. Like so many other cultures, the Irish have a proud history of service to this country, and I feel blessed to walk among them. I am committed to this community, the health and happiness of the men and women who serve their great communities each day and night, particularly those here in Tucson, and the thousands of service men and women who serve, and have served our great nation. 

When I was selected, I was really troubled by what I might say.  St Patrick after all is

celebrated for bringing Christianity to Ireland.  Heck, I’m not the best Christian.  I can only

hope that if St Peter was an attorney, he was a civil attorney.  I'm confident I get in with

50.1%, but "beyond a reasonable doubt”???? I don’t know, the jury could be out a while

on that one. But the same could be said for any good Irishman I suppose!


As I began to think about things more and more and I realized, being Irish is like being

from Arizona.  Who the heck is actually from Arizona, certainly not most people my age….

Most of us have migrated here from somewhere else, both near and far.  And, we all bring

with us culture and tradition.  The beauty of that is, we all get to share it.

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many people I love today. So many friends turned out, my in-laws Guy and Donna (maybe??)   My beautiful wife of 20 years, Amanda!, seems like 5 minutes babe (personal joke between my wife and I that I usually follow with… under water) along with my greatest accomplishments, my son Shea Michael, and the beautiful Abigail Rhea.

And of course my parents, Ron and Janet.  Thanks, Mom and Dad for blessing me with my Irish blood!

My paternal grandmother, Iris, maiden name of Priest.  Her grandparents were from County Clare Midwest Ireland,

along the River Shannon and her family is traced to the name Kerin.  They arrived in the United States via the Prince

Edward Island in Canada before heading south. My mother’s maiden name is McKay and her grandmother was an

O’Brien.  Mary O’Brien, of the County of Cork, SW Ireland. She arrived here in the United States through Ellis Island

at the age of 15 traveling with a cousin. 

She worked as a “lady maid” and had 7 children. I think sometimes we take for granted what immigrant families

endure. As I mentioned, we, and our families, have all migrated from somewhere.  So I am thankful to the City of

Tucson for allowing us to share all of these cultures and traditions with one another and providing me with the

opportunity to have served you all. I am blessed for the career I have had, the people who have helped shape this

life of mine and those that will help me continue on this journey.

Today however, we celebrate the Irish and we get to share our stories.  When you share your story you share a part

of yourself that others will remember.  So share a gat, share your whiskey and share your story, because today, we

are all Irish.

- 2020 Grand Marshal John Carlson