From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)
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Susan J Garr.jpg

First African American Police Women in Lexington, KY

The request for a "colored" police woman was put to the City of Lexington in January of 1922. In October of the following year there was a mass meeting of colored women held at Pleasant Green Baptist Church. Several addresses were delivered and a resolution was passed to ask the Lexington City Commissioners to appoint a colored police woman. The Civic League endorsed the women's petition for a colored police woman. The campaign continued in December 1923. In January 1924, the Colored Civic League of Lexington went to City Hall and presented its requests for a colored police woman and two colored male plains clothesmen or detectives. The request was presented to Lexington Mayor Hogan Yancey and each commissioner. 

In February of 1924, The Colored Civic League declined to make a special recommendation to the mayor and city commissioners; instead they put forth the applications of four viable candidates: Miss Laura Carroll, Mrs. Julia Gant, Mrs. Minnie Yancey, and Mrs. Susie Tabb. In March 1924, Mrs. Susie Tabb was unanimously chosen as a police woman to be attached to the public safety department of the Lexington Police Department. In 1925, Tabb's annual salary was $1,160. 

Sources: "Asks special officer for colored women," The Lexington Leader, 1/11/1922, p. 2; "Colored Notes," Lexington Herald, 10/17/1923, p. 10; "Colored Notes: The civic league ...," The Lexington Herald, 10/18/1923, p. 11; "Colored Notes," The Lexington Herald, 12/2/1923, p. 5; "Colored citizens petition for Negro police officials," The Lexington Leader, 1/14/1924, p. 2; "Colored Notes: The Civic League ...," The Lexington Herald, 2/7/1924, p. 9; "Police woman named," The Lexington Leader, 3/14/1924, p. 9; and "Salary raises protested as discrimination," The Lexington Herald, 92.91.1825, front page & p. 3.    

Susan Layton Tabb was the first African American woman to join the Lexington (KY) Police Department, hired in 1924 [source: R. L. Polk and Co.'s Lexington (Kentucky) Directory 1925, p. 11]. Prior to her hire, the only other African American employee at the police department was Edward Norris, the janitor [source: p. 15 in Lexington City Directory 1923]. 

Tabb was born between 1884 and 1890 in Kentucky, the daughter of Leanna Scroggins Layton and James Layton. She was the wife of William H. Tabb. The family of four had lived in Ashland, KY, where Susan was a restaurant waiter; her husband was a chef at a hotel, according to the 1910 U.S. Census. 

By 1920, Susan Tabb was a widow living in Lexington, where she was a public school teacher. She and her family lived at 112 Georgetown Street [sources: 1920 U.S. Federal Census and p. 641 in R. L. Polk and Co,'s Lexington (Kentucky) Directory 1921].

Susan was a policewoman from 1924 to 1941, according to Polk's Lexington (Fayette County, KY.) City Directory. In 1936, she attended the National Urban League Conference in Buffalo, NY, June 3-6, 1930 [source: "Colored Notes" in the Lexington Leader, 6/10/1930, p. 14].

Susan Layton Tabb died December 11, 1941 in Lexington and is buried in the Highland Cemetery [source: Certificate of Death Registrar's #28388]. Her death was from natural causes. She last lived at 360 Chestnut Street in Lexington and was thought to be 60 years old at the time of her death.

For a more detailed biography of Susan Layton Tabb and a photograph, see the February 16, 2023 Facebook post at the Lexington Police Department site.

Augusta M. Strong was the second African American woman to join the Lexington Police Department, becoming a policewoman as early as 1943 [source: Polk's Lexington (Fayette County, KY.) City Directory, 1943]. Strong was born March 4, 1913 in Lexington and died July 9, 1967 [sources: Kentucky Death Index; and U.S. Social Security Death Index]. She was the wife of Joseph P. Strong.

Prior to becoming an employee with the Lexington Police Department, Augusta was a saleswoman with Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance Company in Lexington [source: p. 580 in Polk's Lexington (Fayette County, KY. City Directory 1939]. She and her husband lived at 600 W. Maxwell Avenue in Lexington.

According to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Augusta Strong had completed four years of college and was employed as a secretary at a doctor's office. Her husband was an insurance agent. They lived in rented rooms.

By 1943, Augusta was with the Lexington Police Department, where she was employed until about 1947 when she and her husband were living at 930 Whitney Avenue [source: Polk's Lexington (Fayette County, KY.) City Directory 1947, p. 537]. The couple is also listed in the 1948 city directory.

In 1949, Augusta traveled overseas for a year  [U.S. Passport #6988]. Her home address was given as Rt. 6, Lexington; Lexington is also listed as her birth location. She left the United States by way of Seattle, WA on June 16, 1949 aboard the USAT Ainsworth, bound for Yokohama, Japan. She returned to the United States September 9, 1950 aboard the USNS General Daniel I Sultan, 1st class [sources: List of Outward-bound Passengers, List No. 6. United States Department of Justice. Immigration and Naturalization Service; and List of In-bound Passengers, List No. 108. Treasury Department. United States Customs Service]. Strong arrived in San Francisco, CA by way of Yokohama, Japan. According to the passenger list, Augusta was still married in 1950. In 1954, she was a nurse at the Community Infirmary [source: Polk's Lexington (Fayette County, KY.) City Directory 1954, p. 568].

Susan Jesscelia Garr joined the Lexington Police Department in January 1949, remaining with the department for almost three decades. She was there in 1960 when she lived at 440 Bamberger Road in Lexington [source: p. 242 in Polk's Lexington (Fayette County, KY.) City Directory 1960]. She retired in 1977 when she lived at 1167 Oakwood Circle in Lexington [source: U.S. Public Records Index, vol. 1; and Polk's Lexington City Directory 1977, p. 272].

Garr died May 3, 1990, and is buried in the Lexington Cemetery [sources: see Find A Grave information and "Obituaries" in the Lexington Herald-Leader, 5/5/1990, p. B14]. Susan, whose name was sometimes written as "Susie," was born December 7, 1918, in Lexington, the daughter of Theodore Sr. and Kate Gay Garr [source: Kentucky Birth Index]. Her siblings were Theodore Jr., Elinor, Naomi, Clara, Olga, Katie, Viola, Leonard, and Rowena Garr [source: 1920 & 1930 U.S. Census]. The family lived on Lee Street in 1930. Both Theodore Sr. and Theodore Jr. were employed as paper hangers with an interior decorating business.

Susan Garr graduated from LeMoyne College in Tennessee. While a student there, she lived with family in Memphis and was employed as a maid with a private family [source: 1940 U.S. Census]. She was also the choir director at Quinn Chapel in Lexington.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“First African American Police Women in Lexington, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 13, 2024, https://ukscrc001.net/nkaa/items/show/1471.

Last modified: 2024-01-03 20:42:28