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Remembering Macomb's First African American Police Officer

Courtesy of Macomb Police Department
Bill Thorpe (left) and O.J. Clark on patrol in Macomb

Former Macomb Police Sgt. Bill Thorpe died at his home in Macomb on Monday, October 21. He was 86.

Thorpe was born in Macomb and grew up in the community.  Police Chief Curt Barker said Thorpe joined the department in September, 1961, becoming the first African-American police officer in Macomb.

Thorpe retired in October, 1984, as a sergeant.

O.J. Clark also grew up in Macomb and served alongside Thorpe in the police department. Clark, who is also African American, said it was a challenge to be a black police officer in the community, which was – and still is – largely populated by whites.

“It was not an easy job. It was not easy. But we persevered,” Clark said. “Probably the most difficult thing is just because it is a rural, mostly white community and we were African Americans. Just that fact alone made it difficult.”

Clark said Thorpe nonetheless maintained a positive attitude and a good sense of humor.

“He was one heck of a guy. Everybody loved him. I don’t think he had an enemy in this world. A really great person,” said Clark, who also retired as a sergeant from the MPD before working another 17 years in law enforcement, finishing his career as Chief of Police and Executive Director for Public Safety at the University of Illinois.

Former Macomb Police Officer Paul Kachinovas concurred with Clark’s assessment of Thorpe, who was a sergeant by the time Kachinovas joined the department in 1973.

“Bill was a fair person. He was level-headed. He was everything you would want to have in a supervisor,” said Kachinovas. “He was the kind of guy who would never ask you to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself.”

Services will be held at 1:00 p.m. Friday, November 1, 2019 at the Macomb Assembly of God Church. Visitation will take place at the church from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Dodsworth-Piper-Wallen Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. You can read Bill Thorpe’s obituary here.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.