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Blacks in the St. Paul Police and Fire Department 1885 - 1976

This is a partial reprint of the book “Blacks in the St. Paul Police and Fire Department 1885 - 1976,” a 1978 publication by James S. Griffin and published by E & J Inc. “Blacks in the St. Paul Police and Fire Department 1885 - 1976,” is copyright ©1978 and all rights reserved by James S. Griffin. It has been reprinted here by permission of James Griffin's widow, Mrs. Edna Smoot Griffin.

The chapter relating to the Fire Department is not included in this reprinting.


About the Author

Photo of the author, James GriffinHe attended West Virginia State College where he met and married the former Edna Smoot of West Virginia. Since then Griffin attended the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, and graduated from Minnesota Metropolitan University. The couple live at 1592 Western Avenue North, St. Paul, and are the parents of three daughters: Ms. Vianne Griffin, a University of Minnesota alumnus was employed as an administrative assistant at Teacher's College, Columbia University (Deceased); Mrs. Linda Griffin Garrett, an Honor graduate of Michigan State University and a teacher in the St. Paul school system. Her husband, James T. Garrett is employed by 3M and they are the parents of two sons, Christopher and James. The youngest daughter, Mrs. Helen Griffin Anderson, is a graduate of West Virginia State College where she was elected Miss West Virginia State in her senior year. She and her husband, Calvin, are the parents of one son, Marcus and live in Baltimore, Maryland, where he is employed by the U.S. Department of Social Security and she is a teacher in the public school system.


THIS PAPER is intended to establish some facts about the part Blacks have played in the St. Paul Police (1892-1976) and Fire (1885-1976) Departments and the problems they had to face in pursuing their chosen careers. Many obstacles beset these men through bias and discrimination from management, fellow workers and the public.

A brief summary of the economic and social status of the black community is given as background material with the hope that the reader of this paper will have a clearer view of the contributions Blacks have made in the St. Paul Police and Fire Departments. The paper is written in two sections with the first concentrating on the Police Department and the second on the Fire Department. It contains oral history and written reference from various sources.

Research information for this paper was obtained from the St. Paul Police Department Records Unit, the St. Paul Fire Department Records Unit, the St. Paul Civil Service Bureau, the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press, The History of the St. Paul Police Department and History of the Police and Fire Departments of the Twin Cities.

Many people have been consulted who have either witnessed or lived many of the events narrated. Some gave information that had been handed down orally over a period of years. Some of the information acquired by these conversations could be documented and some could not.

It should be brought to the reader's attention at this point that on many occasions in the past years, acts and accomplishments by Blacks were ignored and considered unimportant. Many examples of this were brought out in a national T.V. documentary on Black history by Bill Cosby entitled Lost, Strayed or Stolen.

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