As one of three African-American patrolmen when he joined the Buffalo Police Department in 1950, Floyd J. Edwards not only had to fight discrimination in the community but in the police force as well.
Early in his career, for example, Edwards confronted his captain about why black officers weren't allowed to ride in patrol cars.
"I asked him to tell me why guys with less experience were riding in cars while I was walking a beat," Edwards said in a 1981 Buffalo News interview. "He looked at me and said, 'This isn't the railroad. Seniority doesn't mean a thing here.' I told him to look me in the eye and tell me I couldn't ride in a car because I was black. The captain told me that he'd bring me up on charges if I didn't leave his office."
Edwards' fight and perseverance paid off. He became the first African-American to achieve the ranks of lieutenant, chief of detectives and captain in the Buffalo Police Department before retiring in 1982.
He died Thursday (Feb. 15, 2001) in Veterans Administration Medical Center. He was 75.
"He had a distinguished career," said Lt. Larry J. Baehre, a friend and former colleague. "He was well liked, admired and respected by everybody in the Police Department. He was a real gentleman."
Born in St. Louis, Edwards was raised in Buffalo by his parents, Earle and Josephine, and graduated from high school in 1943.
He got his first real taste of racial discrimination when he was drafted into the Marines during World War II and served with distinction in the South Pacific in the 2nd Marine Ammunition Company, an all-black unit with a white commander.
After the war, Edwards finished 55th out of 250 men who took the police exam and was appointed to the department. The first break in his career came in 1960, when he became the first African-American desk lieutenant in the department's history. But he wanted more.
In 1964, he was appointed lieutenant. He worked his way through the ranks as an assistant chief of detectives, then finally reached the rank of captain in 1968.
After taking over the old Cold Spring Station, he encountered some resistance from white officers. He lined them up and challenged them.
"I told those men that if any of them wanted a piece of me, they could walk out to the garage with me right then and there, and we'd forget that I was a captain."
There were no takers, and Edwards believed that was the turning point of his career.
After Edwards retired from the department, he worked for nine years as security director at the Federal Reserve Bank on Delaware Avenue.
A member of the NAACP since 1976, Edwards was a voracious reader and enjoyed playing golf.
"My father was a person of character, strength and integrity," said one of his daughters, MaryBeth. "His life demonstrated a total commitment to family, friends and maintaining a standard of excellence in all of his endeavors."
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Helen E. Kelley; three daughters, Nona Barbee of Detroit, Joanne Ruud of Piedmont, Calif., and MaryBeth of Chicago; a son, Bruce of Phoenix; a brother, Denzel Stewart; five sisters, Heedy Carmel, Georgia Parker, Erma Stewart, Edith Stewart and Jacqueline Farmer; and a grandson.
Prayers will be said at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday in Amigone Funeral Home, 1132 Delaware Ave. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 at St. Benedict's Catholic Church, 1317 Eggert Road at Main Street, Eggertsville. Burial will be in Forest Lawn.