From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Turpin, William Henderson "Ben"

(born: 1897  -  died: 1962) William H. Turpin, also known as Mr. Ben, was a police officer and baseball fanatic who lived in Detroit, MI. According to author Richard Bak, in 1925 Turpin came from Kentucky, where he had been a shoeshine boy, to Detroit. He had lived in Burgin, KY, working as a tanner for J. T. Huguley in Danville, KY, according to his World War I draft registration card. He was a porter at Union Station before being appointed a Detroit policeman in 1927. A large man, he kept the peace in the Black Bottom area with physical force and his two revolvers.

Turpin was also a serious baseball fan, in the 1930s organizing a team called Black Bottom under Turpin's Athletic Club. He sometimes served as the team's catcher with a revolver strapped to each side of his body.

Turpin was the husband of Bessie Turpin [they are mistakenly listed as white in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census].

For more see Turkey Stearnes and the Detroit Stars, by R. Bak; In Black and White, Supplement, 3rd ed., by M. M. Spradling; and "Tough Mr. Ben won respect based on fear," in Blacks in Detroit: a reprint of articles from the Detroit Free Press, by S. McGehee and S. Watson, pp. 72-73.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Mercer County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Boyle County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Burgin, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Danville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Spradling, Mary E. Mace
NKAA Source: Turkey Stearnes and the Detroit Stars : the Negro leagues in Detroit, 1919-1933
NKAA Source: In Black and white. Supplement : a guide to magazine articles, newspaper articles, and books concerning more than 6,700 Black individuals and groups
NKAA Source: Blacks in Detroit : a reprint of articles from the Detroit free press

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Turpin, William Henderson "Ben",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed September 27, 2022,

Last modified: 2022-06-20 16:09:37