Gloucester City Pollice Chief George Berglund (far left) was the MC. Patrolman Wm.Johnson, (second from right) and Sgt. Jason Flood organized the event. Mayor William James apologized on behalf of the citizens of Gloucester City to the family members (pictured) for taking 66- years to honor their grand honoro honor their grandfather and cousin.
By Albert Countryman Jr.
Gloucester City News
On a winter night February 27, 1946, Gloucester City Police Officer Frederick J. Blackburn, 75, was walking the beat at the intersection of Cumberland and Atlantic streets.
A 34-year veteran of the Police Department, Blackburn was delivering a message, then Police Chief James Smith had told the Gloucester City News reporter.
Blackburn was struck by a hit-and-run driver, and was found lying on Cumberland Street by William Hasty of Hunter Street.
He suffered several internal injuries, a broken pelvis and cuts and bruises. He was treated by a local doctor and then sent to Cooper Hospital.
Unfortunately, Blackburn died on the injuries on March 6, 1946, the first Gloucester City Police Officer to ever die in the line of duty.
This past Friday, May 18, 2012, the Gloucester City Police Department unveiled a plaque honoring the ultimate sacrifice Officer Blackburn gave to his community.
The plaque, which will be placed on a granite block outside Police Headquarters and City Hall, have a image of Blackburn and reads: “In Memory Of Patrolman Fredrick J. Blackburn; 34 Years Of Service To The Citizens Of Gloucester City; Killed In The Line Of Duty; End Of Watch March 6, 1946, Donated By The Gloucester City P.B.A. Local #40.”
“We thank the Gloucester City Police Department for this honor for our grandfather,” said Bob Blackburn at the conclusion of the ceremony on a sunny afternoon.
The dedication ceremony started with the presentation of colors by the Camden County Sheriff’s Department as all the Gloucester City Police officers stood in formation and saluted.
Police Chief George Berglund quoted the March 7, 1946, edition of the Gloucester City News announcing the death of Blackburn and the details, and then introduced N.J. Assemblyman Whip Wilson (D-5).
Addressing members of Blackburn’s family, Wilson said, “For your loss, we’re all sorry.”
He then presented Blackburn’s granddaughter, Doris Rozanski, with a proclamation from the N.J. Legislature.
Camden County Sheriff Chuck Billingham, who started his career as an officer of the Gloucester City Police Department, praised Blackburn’s dedication to the community.
Mayor William James said, “I want to thank the members of the Gloucester City Police and the PBA for all their work putting this together. We apologize to the family for the delay in this recognition.”
Berglund then praised the efforts of Sergeant Jason Flood for all his work in putting together the commemoration, as well as Patrolman William Johnson.
The police chief and Deacon Crossan of St. Mary Church unveiled the plaque, and Sgt. Flood played “Amazing Grace,” on the bagpipes – a very moving tribute.
Despite heavy investigation and a $200 reward offered by the South Jersey Suburban Police Association, the driver of the hit-and-run vehicle was never identified.
The N.J. State Police also participated in the investigation, “analyzing a portion of glass from a broken auto headlight in an attempt to determine the make of the car which struck Blackburn,” the Gloucester City News had reported in 1946.
At dedication on Friday, Brett Schmidlin – who married Blackburn’s great-granddaughter, Carol – said the entire family was very pleased by the efforts of the Gloucester City Police.
The three grandchildren at the event were Bob Blackburn, Lois Murphy and Doris Rozanski, as well as other family members.
It was recognition long overdue for Gloucester City Patrolman Frederick J. Blackburn, killed in the line of duty at age 75.