William H. Foote is said to be the first black Deputy Collector, (Police Officer), killed in the line of duty. Born a freeman on June 27, 1843 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Foote was an advocate for black civil rights in the era of post-reconstruction.
Foote gained his education at Oberlin College. After graduation, he returned to Yazoo City, Mississippi to work as constable. He later served as Town Marshall, Circuit Clerk, then City Tax Collector, until he settled on Deputy Collector to enforce liquor tax laws. His last job was tough and had lots of opposition.
Researchers found that Deputy Collectors like Foote carried weapons and badges. The people of Yazoo City were already racially sensitive from the civil rights push. Then on December 24th, 1883, Foote tried to stop a mob of white men from assaulting a black man. Three of the white men were killed in the fight, resulting in Foote’s arrest and the arrest of several other black men. Five days later, as the men awaited trial, a white angry mob broke into the jail and executed Foote and the other captured men.
Foote will be honored today at the headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Washington, DC. His family is expected to attend along with wife of the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder