ALTUS, Okla. (TNN) - Altus Police are working to build a memorial for a man who was the first black officer in department history and is still the only officer ever killed in the line of duty in Altus.
On January 7, 1934, Officer John Henry Hill was on his way to a Masons meeting in Altus.
“He encountered two men who were heavily intoxicated and at that time, Altus was segregated, and they were in the black portion of town. For his safety, he patted them down, but they did not have weapons at that time. He ordered them to leave the area because he thought they were going to cause trouble,” said Detective Devin Dickerson.
Dickerson said the two men didn’t like being told what to do by a black police officer.
“They went and purchased two .38 caliber pistols from a pawn shop at 9:30 at night and they basically hunted him down. He was called out of the meeting under the rouse that his wife and children were sick,” Dickerson said.
Hill left the meeting and was shot four times in the back before returning fire, killing one of the men. The other man was arrested and served 4 years in prison for Hill’s death. Now, Detective Dickerson wants to build a memorial for Hill, who to this day is still the only Altus officer killed in the line of duty.
“I think it’s an important piece of our history and one that cannot be forgotten. It’s the right thing to do by having this memorial, not just for his family for one, but for our entire community, for the officers,” Dickerson said.
The memorial will be in the exact spot Hill was killed, at the corner of what is now Martin Luther King Drive and Hudson Street, directly across the street from the current Altus Police station.
“The officers have to turn that corner to get to the back of the police department where we enter. Hopefully, by them passing that memorial, it will serve as a reminder to be vigilant in their duties every day and the unthinkable can happen at any time,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson has been working on this project for more than a decade, collecting dozens of documents about Hill’s life and the trial of his killer. She has been collecting donations to eventually put up the memorial, which will be built with great input from Hill’s family, who no longer lives in Oklahoma.
“For one, they’ll know he’s not forgotten. He’s never been forgotten. Also, I think it will give them a place to go to remember them, remember his sacrifice to the community,” Dickerson said.
There’s no timetable for when the memorial will be complete, but Dickerson hopes it is sometime this year. She said no matter when it is, she doesn’t plan on retiring until it’s complete.
If you want to donate to the memorial you can send checks to the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial at PO BOX 10776 OKC, OK. 73140-1776
You MUST put John Hill Memorial in the memo line on the check if you want it to be used for this project.