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Wed, 04.24.1889

Lafayette Tillman, 19th-century Policeman born

Lafayette Tillman

Lafayette A. Tillman’s birth in 1869 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black Barber and Policeman.

Lafayette Alonzo Tillman was born in Evansville, Indiana. After graduating from public schools, he entered Oberlin College and continued his studies at the Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C. A proficient bass singer, Tillman traveled extensively with the New Orleans University singers and later with the Don Tennesseans, a group that performed in the White House. He performed in Kansas City in 1880 and opened a restaurant in 1881.

Tillman eventually married and worked as a barber downtown. He opened his six-chair barbershop for white patrons at 12th and Grand in 1889. Tillman studied law in his spare time and was commissioned as a Notary Public in 1894. He enrolled in the Kansas City School of Law in 1896 but left to join the armed forces enlisting to fight in the Spanish-American War in 1898. After returning home, he was appointed by President McKinley as a first lieutenant in the Philippines with the Forty-Ninth Volunteer Infantry.  After serving for two years in Luzon, Tillman returned permanently to Kansas City.

In appreciation of his patriotic service, a group of prominent white citizens secured a position for him on the police force.  Lafayette Tillman was a soldier, a scholar, and one of the first African Americans appointed to the Kansas City police force.  At his death in 1914, he was one of the oldest policemen serving on the force. He was buried with full military honors suitable to his service to his city and country.

To Become a Policeman or Detective


KC Black

Reference Library of Black America Volumes 1 through 5
Edited by Mpho Mabunda
Copyright 1998, Gale Research, Detroit, MI

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