From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Bell, Robert F.

(born: 1862  -  died: 1931) 

Robert F. Bell (or R. F. Bell) was the first African American police officer in Lexington, KY, joining the force in 1918. Locals referred to him as "Senator Bell."

He was included in the Lexington Police Department photograph dated April 12, 1937 (courtesy of Amanda Elliott, at the former Lexington History Museum - in the Black and White Photographic Collection).

In 1907, R. F. Bell was a betting commissioner for J. A. Drake, A. B. Gates, and A. B. Hutchinson of New York [sources: The Negro Population of Lexington in the Professions, Business, Education and Religion, by L. Harris, p. [10] in photocopy c. 2 of the book at UK's Special Collections; and "Colored Circles" in the Lexington Leader, 10/27/1902, p. 2].

Bell also bought and sold real estate. He and Florence Searcy (b. 1883 or 1884) married in 1904; the couple's home was on E. Fifth Street in Lexington [source: 1910 U.S. Census]. The household included a son, Searcy; a daughter named Florence R. Bell in the census records (her name later appears as Roberta); and Florence's sister, Carrie Searcy.

By 1920, Robert was a widow: Florence died suddenly February 23, 1912. She is buried in Cove Haven Cemetery [sources: Kentucky Death Index, 1911-2000; and Florence Searcy Bell in Find A Grave]. Robert never remarried. He died at his home after a long illness on September 28, 1931 [sources: "Colored Notes," Lexington Leader, 9/29/1931, p. 12; and Kentucky Death Index, 1911-2000].

For more see Chelsea Jones, Lexington Police Dept. recognizing first Black officers who served in the city,   2/24/2021, WKYT website; and Lexington Police on Twitter, Black History Month, 2/9/2021.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Bell, Robert F.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 22, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-06-11 17:05:24