Italian Police Officers – Mario Fausto “Frank” Chiozza

By Michael Vanelli and Joe Lowry

With special thanks to Chris Chiozza

Edited by Trish M. Gully


When we talk about great officers of the Memphis Police Department, Sgt. Mario Chiozza comes to the forefront. Our story is about this fine man, Mario F. Chiozza.

Mario was born in Italy on Dec. 27, 1881, and died Oct. 10, 1959, at age 77. The first mention of him was in 1906 when he lived with his mother at 259 Poplar Ave.

In 1908, he was listed as a saloon keeper. In 1910, he partnered with Edward Pastore and was in the soft drink business. He continued in that business in 1912 with a partner named A. Testora.

In 1915, he clerked at the Enrico Grocery and in 1916 was the cook at the Eugene Ravarino restaurant in the same building as the Enrico Grocery.

In late 1916, Mario Chiozza was hired by the Memphis Police Department as the stable man. At this time the police station was at Adams and Second. The police stables were on the second floor, with ramps so the horses could be hooked to the Chief’s, Inspectors’, Captains’ and Sergeants’ wagons and deployed to the streets.

He was assigned in 1917 to drive the “Crying Car,” which delivered the Emergency Patrolmen (the SWAT team of the day). The officers assigned to this job were the baddest of the bad when it came to quelling fights, investigating and collecting evidence, and handling anything of a crisis nature. These were some of the best officers on the force.

Chiozza didn’t spend any time that we can find in the patrol or traffic divisions. He went straight to detective and, along with his partner Detective Thomas Smith, in 1925 led the department with 40 arrests and 342 people taken into custody.

In 1926 they arrested 54 bad guys and took 350 into custody. The same year, they recovered more than $6,500 worth of stolen property. Chiozza and Smith solved several cases that had stumped the entire detective division for many weeks. They were solving cases one after another and were aggressive in their investigations, looking at even the smallest clues. If a bad guy made a slip up, they were on top of it.

They apprehended a nationally sought criminal, Robert Mann, who was wanted in Florida for many payroll holdups. They arrested J. H. Hamilton of Oklahoma City, who came to Memphis to lay low after he pulled a $20,000 jewel robbery there.

In 1935, Chiozza retired from the department, obtained a liquor license and opened a liquor store on the first floor of Kimbrough Towers at 1575 Union Ave. The following year, he opened a restaurant at Poplar and Crosstown and in the 1940 and 50s, operated a restaurant at Cleveland and Overton Park.

During his life, Chiozza served as editor of two Italian language newspapers, served as the Italian Consul here, and was considered a leader in the Italian community. He was an honorable and gentle man, but a very aggressive police investigator.

Chiozza attended and received a degree from an Italian university.

He was a leader in three Italian societies: Fratallanza, Italian Gardeners, and the Vittorio Emmanuel III. He loved opera and baseball.

Mario and his wife, Anna, had six children: five boys and a girl (Livia Rose, b. 1905; Ettore, b. 1909; Louis Peo, b. 1910; Dino, b. 1912; Aldo, b. 1913, and Joseph Raymond, b. 1918). Sons Lou and Dino both were major league baseball players. Joe also served in the U.S. Army, piloting a B-26 Marauder, including during D-Day in World War II.

Mario Chiozza died in 1959 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Memphis. At the time of his death, he lived at 924 N. Parkway Blvd.


Sources for this story:

Memphis Police Department yearbook of 1924

Memphis Police Department Highlights and Sidelights, From the Past  stories by MPD Historian Joseph C Walk published in 1987 by the Memphis Police Association

Find A Grave No. 155569653

Shelby County Death Certificate 1550

Commercial Appeal January 6, 1927, page 3

Commercial Appeal October 11, 1959,  page 4

Dow City Directories 1906 through 1959, various years





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