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Community, BPD honor city's first African-American officer

Posted by Patrick Rosso  January 7, 2013 11:57 AM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

In Video: Officers with BPD, community members, and elected officials talk about Horatio J. Homer’s legacy.

An officer who broke barriers and ushered in a new era for police and African-Americans in the city of Boston was bestowed another honor Saturday at the Area B-2 police precinct in Roxbury.

Horatio J. Homer, who was appointed to the Boston Police Department in 1878 and promoted in 1895 to Sergeant, was the city’s first African-American officer on the force.

Now, his name will live on after the city renamed the B-2’s community room after him.

“I think he’d be very proud today,” said Larry Ellison, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers. “It’s very humbling for me to be part of an organization that Sergeant Horatio J. Homer blazed a path for others like me to be here today.”

It wasn’t discovered that Homer was BPD’s first African-American officer until 2010 after some researching by Margaret R. Sullivan, BPD’s civilian records manager, and Bob Anthony, an East Boston officer.

The pair was able to find Homer’s grave, he died in 1923 at 75, at the Evergreen Cemetery in Brighton. The discoveries lead to a ceremony by BPD to honor the man and changing of the departments records. It was thought, previously to the discovery, that BPD’s first African-American officer joined the force in 1919.

“Sergeant Homer was a wonderful man, a quiet man; a man of great dignity and achievement, and his story was lost,” said Sullivan, records manager for BPD. “These are stories that we can all learn from. He served for 40-years and this is something we can learn from.”

Homer is survived by his two granddaughters Lillian Homer, 56, and Maria Homer, 58.

After the sisters removed the cover over their grandfather’s plaque Saturday, officers and supporters cheered, as the sisters held back tears.

“It’s wonderful, I’m just so overwhelmed,” said Maria Homer after the ceremony.

“I’m just speechless,” added Lillian Homer.

While in his day Homer inspired many during his 40-plus year career, even bringing a half-dozen African-American officers on to the force with his recommendation, many said his story will always be timely as young men and women strive to break barriers and walk in the footsteps of Horatio J. Homer.

“He set the history that we as other black officers have to uphold. We have to maintain it and we have to build upon it,” said Deputy Superintendent Randall Halstead of BPD.

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