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

Wilson, Cornelius

(born: 1890  -  died: 1919) 

Cornelius Wilson was born in Campbellsville, KY, but his exact birth date has been disputed; 1890 is the birth date on his grave marker. He was the son of Matthew Wilson and Virgina Miller [source: Cook County, IL, Death Index]. Cornelius Wilson left Kentucky for Chicago, where he joined the police force in February 1915. He was a widower when four years later, May 1, 1919, he became the first African American police officer in Chicago to be killed in the line of duty. That night, Wilson ended his shift and was heading home when he was gunned down in a shootout with robbery suspects known as "boy bandits." His body was brought home to Campbellsville and buried in the Oddfellows Cemetery on May 5,1919. In 2003, the Chicago Police Department Pipes and Drums replaced Wilson's broken grave marker, and a ceremony was held in his honor. For more see F. M. Beckless, "New headstone for first Black cop killed in line of duty," Chicago Defender, 04/24/2003, p. 4; B. Schreiner, "Slain Chicago police officer remembered," The Enquirer (Cincinnati) 04/30/2003; and R. Dial, "Chicago Police officers will remember their first fallen black officer in Campbellsville ceremony," Central Kentucky News-Journal, 02/28/2003.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Chicago defender (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Central Kentucky news-journal (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Wilson, Cornelius,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed March 3, 2021,

Last modified: 2017-07-19 17:51:28