Henry Lux – Not Your Average Police Officer

Here is a story of Hemry Lux and the public roles he filled as a lifelong Memphian.

Background: He was born on November 8, 1922, and died on February 20, 1979. He attended Ernest Adams Elementary School in Mallory Heights and graduated from Whitehaven High School. He joined the US Army Air Corps, trained, and flew as a Flight Engineer on the B24 Liberator Bomber.

The Flight Engineer: The engineer perhaps knew more about the B-24 than any other crew member, including the flight commander. In emergencies, the commander turned to the engineer. The flight engineer’s duties were to assist the pilot and copilot in monitoring the engines’ performance and keeping track of fuel burned. The engineer was usually also the top turret gunner, a position that allowed him to monitor the four engines, the assistant parachute master, first aid specialist, and backup radio operator. (www.batguano.com/jsklisenbauer/B24crewduties.html).

 These skills would help him in his future career as a police officer. 

As Police Officer: Henry Lux entered the service of the Memphis Police Department in 1945 as a patrolman in the traffic division. One day he and his partner spotted a vehicle with a driver who did not look right. They stopped the young driver, found him armed, and wanted in Minnesota for thirty-two crimes and promptly arrested him. Soon after, in 1946, he and his partner were promoted to Sgt., primarily because of his natural ability to lead and intelligence. In 1949 he was promoted to Lieutenant, spent three ½ years in Homicide, and served “Out of Rank” as the evening shift desk Captain. On October 21, 1949, he received word that a needy family of five, with three small children, had arrived at the bus station, destitute, hungry, and tired. He passed the hat at Police HQ, made a phone call, and his officers arrived at the bus station. They took the family to a restaurant, then put them up for the night at a hotel and were able to send them on their way to live with relatives by bus. The MPD did many noble things like that then, and our officers today do kind things all the time. It is what Police Officers do. In 1956, Lux achieved the rank of Captain. In 1960 Fire and Police Commissioner Claude Armour promoted him to Inspector and put him in charge of Human and Community Relations between the Black and White community as a liaison to the Police Department (this was a first). The commissioner called upon him to sit in on classes and meetings at Lemoyne College to discuss how the government and the police department worked.

As Liaison in the Black Community: During this time, he developed an excellent rapport with the Black Community, and they liked and respected him. He was instrumental in bringing the department up to Federal Standards involving civil rights, which was somewhat lacking or almost nonexistent on the MPD. During the E. H. Crump years, Mr. Crump used the MPD to enforce the white rule, so many old ways of policing ideas carried over to the rank and file. Many senior officers of the day resisted change, believing in the old ways of controlling lawbreakers.

As Assistant Chief: In 1961, he was promoted to Assistant Chief; and regularly involved in the Black Community, trying to help improve things. He created the Community Relations Bureau in 1967 and Police Service Centers. With the help of excellent officers like Ed Reddit, assigned to these neighborhood stations, he helped young men and women find direction in their lives. They helped students with homework, played basketball with them, and tried to make a better life for many who did not have such a good life, especially from their history with the Police department. 1967 Claude Armour retired, and Frank Holloman, a retired FBI agent, was appointed Police and Fire Director. In the spring of 1968, the Police Department operated like it did when E. H. Crump pulled the strings, made decisions, and micromanaged the police department. There was NO structural organization. According to Police Chief J. C. McDonald, the department was operating as the MPD had since 1910 “because we always did it that way. “

During the “Sanitation Strike” marches, Assistant Chief Lux can be viewed on film and camera walking in front with a portable radio.

The Sanitation Workers issue started in February of 1968. The deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker, killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck, propelled them to action. Henry Loeb was Mayor and refused to work with his city employees in good faith. Not taking into consideration the voice of the employees seemed to be a tradition with past mayors. Police Chief McDonald retired on July 1, 1968, and Assistant Chief Henry Lux was appointed Police Chief. During this time, he received many commendations and compliments for his calmness in crisis.

During his time as police chief, he worked to change the image of how the public perceived the department.

As the top man, he wore a suit and tie but always had his uniform ready in a plastic laundry bag prepared as needed, hanging in his office.

He was a staunch supporter of his officer having college, even though he never attended himself. He never fired his gun while on duty. He made profound public statements about this time after his November 1, 1971, retirement. Here is one of them word for word.

           “A patrolman has the same duties as a trial judge but usually lacks the education, the time to calm the atmosphere, and the careful presentation of both sides a judge sees. In the space of one to two minutes upon arriving at a crime scene, a police officer must determine what happened, glean these facts, take them, and apply them to one of the 30,000 laws we ask them to enforce, then decide on what to do. The formidable responsibility of a policeman includes the authority to take a life.” (Commercial Appeal October 6, 1972, Page 19)

Politically he was more liberal than his peers.

He cut the police response time from 12 minutes to 6 minutes. He created the four days,10 hours a day week shifts schedule to optimize the manpower and provide better city-wide coverage and more intensive patrols in high crime areas.

As Educator: After retirement, he and Retired FBI Agent Joe Canale started a criminology program at Memphis State University.

 As Family man: Chief Lux and his wife Dorothy had three children and attended Central Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and he was a Mason.

He was one of those who truly influenced the people he worked with and those he served. He established his methods based on his Christian principles.

To Credit: Thanks to one of his sons, John Lux, for his assistance, MPD Police Historian; William Novarese, and three retired, high-ranking Police Officers for their assistance.

Edited by: Trish Gully

7 thoughts on “Henry Lux – Not Your Average Police Officer

  1. Thank you for this article about my father in law. He was a wonderful man who had integrity and loved the Lord.. He was calm, cool and collected and wise in his decision making. He is missed every day by his family.

  2. Great article Joe, Brian Roper attended the college courses set up by Chief Lux. I remember Chief McCall helping Brian get into the program.

  3. Chief Henry Lux was my Father-in-Law and the primary reason I ended up in a career in Law Enforcement with the FBI for 35 years, four and a half as a Clerk earning my degree at Memphis State and waiting to enter New Agent Training at Quantico and thirty and a half as a Special Agent. Chief Lux and his wife Dorothy were very supportive of me and my wife and our daughter and he was my partner (often winning) in numerous golf tournaments we played in. He was a major influence in our lives for which I and my family are forever grateful.
    We miss you Chief and Dorothy, who lived with us and we took care of for over twenty years as we promised Chief if his final days.

    God Bless Chief Lux and his wife, Ken and Lotten Walsh

  4. The research for this story was fun because Chief Lux was all about the kinds of people I consider as my heroes they are all about being champions for the underdog, Fair Play and Civil Rights.

  5. Wonderful article about a kind gentle giant who was my neighbor when I was a child. He and his entire family were always warm and welcoming. I felt very safe having him as Chief of Police of Memphis and living across the street from him.

  6. Chief Lux was my neighbor and his daughter one of my best friends. I remember spending the night at his house and laughing at his jokes. He was so dedicated to his job, but I remember him mostly from “hanging out” at his house and enjoying his jokes and stories. Such a special man!

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