HPD Headquarters renamed Houston Police Department Edward A. Thomas Building
Historic photo credits: HPD Public Affairs and Event day photo credits: J. Ware
Empower Magazine salutes retired Senior Police Officer Edward A. Thomas as an Empowering First for the role he played in paving a path for countless officers to follow through his dedicated years of public service.
Hundreds, including city officials, police officers, community leaders and the general public gathered outside of HPD headquarters on Monday, July 27 to pay tribute to retired Senior Police Officer Edward A. Thomas in honor of his exemplary service and dedication to the department. At the age of 95, Thomas received the department’s highest recognition – the naming of HPD’s headquarters in his honor.
On Jan. 12, 1948, Thomas joined the police force and served the Houston community until his retirement on July 23, 2011. As the first police officer of color to successfully complete the academy and join the department, he is the longest serving officer in HPD’s history and also the longest serving police officer in the state of Texas.
There were no honors doled out to Thomas when he joined the Houston Police Department in 1948 as a member of Police Academy Class #1. In his early career, he felt the disdain and rejection of fellow officers, the majority of whom did not respect him as an equal nor welcomed his presence. Thomas was not allowed to arrest a White person or to drive a patrol car or eat in the cafeteria, according to news reports.
With the Civil Rights era and integration, Thomas was able to witness things change and see other African Americans join the department and climb to the various ranks of the police force, including the position of chief.
Described as a very private and humble person in many news reports, he was reported to be adverse to attempts to be interviewed or to have the spotlight shone on him by the media.
HPD Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr. recommended “Mr. Thomas,” as he is affectionately known throughout the department, for the honor, citing executive order 1-47 which allows for the naming of city facilities.
“It would be only fitting that a man of his stature, character and outstanding ethics and morals be given this honor,” stated Chief McClelland. “He is the epitome of what every police officer should be. I don’t think there could be any better tribute to a patrol officer, who was a patrol officer for 65 years that underwent intense, systemic discrimination, to have his name on this building as a role model for others.”
“Mr. Thomas exemplified the words perseverance, diligence, duty, service and pride to all HPD officers and officers throughout other jurisdictions. He was one of the first African-American police officers to integrate into HPD, though he had served nearly 20 years with HPD prior to the Civil Rights Movement. He endured challenges and difficulties most cannot imagine, but persevered through it all.
“His more than six decades of hard work and courage paved the way for other African American and other minority officers to follow. He has, and will always, remain the most revered and respected police officer in the City of Houston,” added Chief McClelland.
Houston City Council made it official on June 24, 2015 voting unanimously to rename HPD headquarters in Thomas’ honor.