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

Ballew, Joseph S.

(born: 1857  -  died: 1923) 

Joseph S. Ballew was one of the first African American police officers in Omaha, NE. He was a South Omaha patrolman, having joined the Omaha Police Department June 21, 1915 [source: Omaha Memories, by E. R. Morearty]. Ballew was born in Pulaski County, KY. The family name is spelled a number of ways in the U.S. Census, and Joseph's last name is spelled "Blew" in the U.S. Army Register of Enlistments and in On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II, by I. Schubert and F. N. Schubert.

The Ballew family was living in Mt. Gilead, KY in 1870, according to the U.S. Census; three years later Joseph Ballew enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving with the 9th Cavalry until his discharge at Camp Bettens, WY in 1892. He settled in Omaha, NE and worked as a laborer prior to becoming a patrolman.

Ballew was the husband of Dora Ballew, whom he married in 1896. His race is listed inconsistently in the census: Black, White, and/or Mulatto. He is listed in the Omaha City Directory as Colored.

On September 28, 1919 the Omaha Race Riot occurred. Will Brown, who was Black, was accused of attacking a white woman, Agnes Loebeck. Brown was taken from jail by a mob and brutally killed: his body was burned. For days there were other deaths unrelated to Brown and Loebeck.

When calm was restored to the city, the Omaha Police Department was criticized for what was perceived as a lack of effort to prevent the deaths and rioting. Two of the police officers on duty during the rioting were Black [source: "Omaha" in Race Riots and Resistance, by J. Voogd]. More about the riot can be found online at (bottom of the linked page and following).

Joseph S. Ballew would have been a police officer during the period of rioting. He died in 1923 and is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Omaha, according to Find A Grave.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Pulaski County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Mount Gilead, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Ballew, Joseph S.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-05-24 16:52:22