EPD Honors 1st African-American Officer

Local News

Saturday an Evansville police officer was remembered. Officer Jacob C. Thompson Jr. was the first African-American police officer in his department.

There was one in every hand, a white booklet, outlining the history behind Officer Jacob C. Thompson Jr. 

“It’s good to remember what happened in the past to remember the people who came before you that basically shaped the department through the 152 year history,” Assistant Police Chief Chris Pugh. 

His story was just recently discovered.

“We were on the research committee, we did a 150th anniversary yearbook for the police department,” Evansville Police Lt. Dan DeYoung said. “We were scouring through library material and old newspaper columns and we stumbled across this story and we were really fascinated by it.”

Thompson was born a slave in Boyd County, Kentucky. At 15, he moved with his family to Evansville. He was one of first two African-Americans admitted to Indiana State University. He then became a teacher in Evansville. He joined the Evansville police force in 1877, becoming the first African-American man appointed to the department.

“The police department has taken up the role of his family and that’s kind of why we wanted to do this for him,” Lt. DeYoung said. 

Officers say they haven’t found any local relatives, but Saturday wanted to honor him by a giving a flag and medal.

“There’s some strange relations throughout the nation here between African-American families and law enforcement and we really haven’t see those issues here per se, but to honor a man who really did a lot in his young life,” Lt. DeYoung said. 

Officer Thompson was only 25 years old when he died of tuberculosis, that was nearly 150 years ago. But now his memory and his legacy will never be forgotten. 

“The young people nowadays don’t know anything about their history,” African American Museum Executive Director Lu Porter said. “This will carry it forward.”

Officials from the African-American museum say Officer Thompson’s flag will be on display in the museum.

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