Senior Officer Edward Thomas, a retired Houston police officer, was the Texas city’s first successful Black officer. The Houston Police Department honored Thomas late last month by naming its headquarters after him, capping a career than spans over 60 years.
Thomas, now 94, was born near Shreveport, La. A former football player at Southern University, Thomas was drafted by the Army and fought in World War II. As reported by The Houston Chronicle and told by current HPD Chief Charles McClelland, Thomas was working in California when he boarded a bus bound for Louisiana. During a stop in Houston, Thomas spied an application for the Houston Police Department.
Thomas graduated first class from the academy in the spring of 1948. While Thomas wasn’t the city’s first Black officer, he was the one of the four that came before him to find success and longevity at the role. Thomas did so while enduring oppressive racism and segregation. He was not allowed to talk or eat lunch with his white counterparts, he couldn’t go into roll calls where other white officers were present and he didn’t have access to a squad vehicle.
Thomas was assigned a walking beat in Houston’s Black neighborhoods, and was only allowed to speak to other Black people. Thomas was once reprimanded for talking to a white meter maid who asked for his assistance and protection from cat-callers. He docked a day’s pay for the meter maid offense and was pressured to resign which he didn’t do. It would end up being the only blemish on Thomas’ record in the 63 years he was on the force.
Thomas, who left the force in 2011 at the rank of Senior Officer, amassed several awards and honors over the decades. While Chief McClelland says that Thomas wasn’t fond of his treatment or the conditions he faced, he took it all as part of his duties.
Thomas, who has a daughter, sister and a niece, is an intensely private person. In fact, Thomas once gave an interview to a Houston Chronicle reporter but only with a contractual promise that the interview would only get published after his death.