Chief Seabrook

Carrol B Seabrook was born August 24, 1888 and died at 95 on March 1984.
In the 1920’s he became a cotton grader working for several companies in several capacities. In the early 1930’s he formed a partnership with Charles R Cash and became the secretary and treasurer of the Seabrook Cash Cotton Company.

In the late 1920’s he formed a friendship with Watkins Overton. Thanks to his association with his friend, he was appointed as the City‘s Beer Commissioner, City Clerk, and in 1939 as assistant to Police and Fire Commissioner Clifford Davis. During this time E. H. Crump and Mayor Watkins Overton had a major falling out. Instead of following the man who helped him get into Public Service, he chose to follow Crump. For his loyalty Crump appointed him as Assistant Police and Fire Commissioner, under the newly appointed former court house janitor and Crump crony Joseph P Boyle. In 1940 Crump appointed him to Police Chief. Despite never being a law enforcement officer he was named the Top Cop in Memphis. Seabrook had spent his entire life grading cotton and now he was grading police officers. This caused extreme issues within the rank and file of the Police Department. Every day there seemed to be conflict between Seabrook and his command staff. Seabrook had no experience dealing with issues that were law enforcement- based. Police officers and fire fighters have systems the general public does not understand. It’s not like any other business except perhaps the military.

In Seabrook’s defense, he didn’t have a clue on how to run an effective police department but he would NOT listen to his command staff for insight and this filtered down to the patrolman level. This didn’t matter to E. H. Crump. Crump used his police department to enforce his dominance and they did it very well. If you were black, or could not help him in some way or an opponent, he would use you or remove you. You would be black balled from working anywhere in West Tennessee or where ever had had control. For years Memphians were held in check even during the Clifford Davis reign as Public Safety (Police and Fire) Commissioner. Memphis Police wrote a lot of speeding tickets because a $50.00 ticket in the 1930’s and 1940’s would get your attention. Seabrook was so out of place among the officers they had NO respect for him.

On December 5, 1940 Chief Seabrook, on orders from Joseph Boyle, fired long time, Captain J. P. Cross, who had been accused of a minor infraction. Captain Cross had never a blemish on his record, and never had even one reprimand, but he was a perceived threat to Chief Seabrook.

October 1943, after the shenanigans of Chief Seabrook and Joe Boyle, the entire police department had enough. The fact that MPD officers made less money than officers in Atlanta and Nashville, not having civil service protection, (Crump removed that in 1935), and rarely getting days off pushed them to their limits. Chief Seabrook also suspended two of the most well respected officers on the department for an infraction, he thought was wrong. This infuriated the rank and file including his entire command staff.

On October 16, 1943, 75% of the on duty Police Department came to City Hall leaving not a single patrol car on the streets. 150 Officers said to Commissioner Boyle, that they were going to go on strike if these officers weren’t reinstated. Pay, civil service protection was part also parts of their demands and they wanted a new Chief. The fire department was watching this closely. Boyle, fearing these officers would do what they said, quickly reinstated the officers.

During the Seabrook years the MPD was plagued with several horrible scandals involving its officers and the public, especially the minority public. Rumors of fear tactics in 1941 and a major scandal with police and the black community in August of 1945 kept fear in Memphians.

Seabrook got crossways between the local pinball concession, the bingo games at churches, the juke box racket, and in 1944, the racing and betting population. His name was associated with all kinds on controversy along with Joseph P Boyle, aka “Holy Joe “, another Crump minion who had never been a Police officer, particularly in the black community.

You can imagine how much fun it would have been to be a police officer in those days. Police and Fire employees were ordered to give back part of their salary to support the city, another Crump idea. There was so much controversy connected with Boyle it could fill a novel. That’s for another story.

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