William S. "Will" Knight
Chief of Police
Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas


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The following text was copied from "Corsicana Texas - Compliments of Will S. Knight, Chief of Police".  Pictures for this page were taken from an original copy. The entire book was reprinted in the Navarro County Scroll (1991 - 1992) and is used here with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society.

An oil town's transient population cannot be picked or carefully chosen and the lawless element that invariably comes into such places is sometimes supreme in its low line of endeavor.  However, Corsicana goes tranquilly on, giving hardly a thought as to what the situation might be if it were not for its ultra-efficient police department; an organization that moves so quietly and smoothly that the thoroughness with which it works is taken for granted.  In fact, a stranger entering the city for the first time would have difficulty in discovering its main livelihood if it were not for the tall derricks towering over its suburbs.

It has been truly said that no business is better than its head, and the same thing is just as true of a police department; it is no better than its chief.  Will S. Knight, chief of police of the City of Corsicana for the past seventeen years, has no peer as a guardian of the law in the entire Southwest.

Began Career Early in Life

Chief Knight began his career as a peace officer when only a lad, in 1897, serving as a deputy under Robert J. Allen who was at that time sheriff of Navarro County.   Upon Mr. Allen's retirement in 1900, the Mayor and City Council of Blooming Grove, Texas, appointed Mr. Knight city marshal of that municipality.  His service proved so eminently satisfactory that in April of 1901, he was elected by the people to the same position and continued his work as City Marshal of Blooming Grove until November of 1902, when he resigned and returned to Corsicana to act as deputy to Sheriff J. J. Hale for a period of two years.

In 1904 Chief Knight accepted a position as patrolman on the Corsicana police force, and served in this capacity until 1906, when he was appointed Chief of Police, which place he has held continuously until now.

When Mr. Knight assumed his duties as Chief, his staff consisted of four men besides himself.  A year later he added a mounted patrolman and has gradually been building up his force until now he has more than twenty men.  The equipment of the department has increased from probably a couple of horses to two motor cars, one motorcycle, several horses and other paraphernalia necessary to the department.

Has Worked Out Two Wonderful Systems

Since his inauguration, seventeen years ago, Chief Knight has perfected tow valuable systems for his department that are unequaled in any city the size of Corsicana in the South.  By merely pushing an electric switch he is able to talk to any of his patrolmen on duty, within from one to two minutes and sometimes in only a few seconds.   This device keeps the Chief in constant touch with every man on duty both day and night.

The other, his system of complete filing of all police records.  When a patrolman goes on his beat he is given printed slips, one of which must be filled out whenever an arrest is made or when there is a disturbance of any kind in his territory.   When he goes off duty he must turn his data over to the officer on the desk who in turn transfers these reports to permanent records that are filed each day in Chief Knight's private office.  Records are thus kept of every arrest made in the city, and without delay Chief Knight can give detailed information concerning any arrest that has been made by his department since 1915, when the system was installed.

Another feature of Chief Knight's filing system is evidenced in the reports he prepares for the grand jury.  Each case is described in minute detail and so thoroughly worked out that they can be laid before this investigation body in a very short time.

Never Had a Prisoner Escape

Probably the outstanding feature of Chief Knight's career as a peace officer is that during his long period of service he has never had a prisoner escape.  Chief Knight contends that there is no legitimate excuse for the escape of a prisoner while being transported from one point to another or while under the surveillance of an officer of the law, and if such should occur in his department the man responsible would be immediately dismissed.

When a man applies to Chief Knight for a place on his force he is asked a number of questions which he must satisfactorily answer.  Each applicant must be of proven honesty before he is even considered for appointment.  Following the employing of a new man, he is kept under close observation at all times to see that he attends strictly to his duties and if he proves to be unworthy he is summarily discharged.   During the first six months of a man's service as an employee of the police department he is styled a probationary patrolman.

Makes Enviable Record

Chief Knight has an enviable record for recovering stolen automobiles.   His most successful year was in 1921, when every car stolen in and around Corsicana was returned to its owner.

An intimate friend of Chief Knight has remarked that the Chief works harder and talks less than any officer he has ever known.  Even Mr. Knight's own men at times are surprised when the personal investigations of their chief culminate in the jailing of guilty persons.  Chief Knight is a very retiring gentleman, never seeking to exploit his own achievements in any manner and certainly never encouraging any kind of notoriety for either his department or himself.  His motto is: "A man who attends to his own business has a good steady job," and the public is well aware of the fact that it can at all items get unparalleled service from its police department.

Testimonial of Efficiency

In a recent case which the Chief handled personally and that terminated in the arrest of a notorious gang of "safe-crackers" and "hold-up" men, a leading business man in Corsicana, who had been robbed, made the statement that money paid for outside protection was wasted, as the City's own police department always has done the work on which the outside organizations had failed.  A prominent insurance man added that all of his investigations had been made by Chief Knight and his department, and that the companies which he represented were well pleased with the services they had received, and were loud in their praise for Chief Knight.

Mr. Knight is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and in1914 was elected president of the Chiefs of Police and City Marshals Association of Texas.  After serving the allotted one year in that capacity he was made a member of the executive committee of the later organization, which post he has held until a year ago when he failed to attend the convention.

The foregoing is an innovated way of expressing the fact that Chief Will S. Knight is considered by the law-abiding citizens of his city as the one man to occupy and hold the high place to which he has been appointed.  The fact of his long years of service in itself proves that the judgment of the mayors and city commissioners whom he has served in the past as well as the ones under whom he is now serving, was sound when they named him Chief of Police for Corsicana.  During his entire tenure of office there has never been any friction between the mayors and commissioners and the police department.


OBITUARIES

Will S. Knight
Mar. 17, 1875 - June 20, 1936

Will S. Knight, 60, Corsicana's Chief For 30 Years, Dies
Veteran Police Official, Native of Leon County, Will Be Buried Sunday

CORSICANA, Texas, June 20 - Will S. Knight, 60, police chief for thirty years, died Saturday. Funeral services will be held at the First Christian Church Sunday at 5 p.m. The Rev. Tom Lenox of Sweetwater, former pastor of the First Christian Church here, will conduct the services, assisted by the Rev. O.W. Reece, pastor.

Chief Knight was born in Leon County and spent his early life there. While in his teens, he moved to Navarro County and lived at Blooming Grove, Cryer Creek and other communities before moving to Corsicana. He was named as Deputy Sheriff by Sheriff Bob Allen before he was 21 and spent the rest of his life as a peace officer. Knight was elected City Marshal at Blooming Grove in 1900 and was renamed in 1901-1902 and in September, 1902, he resigned the marshalship to become a deputy under Sheriff Joe Hale.

In 1901, Knight was named on the city police force by the late Mayor E.O. Call. He was named chief of the department in 1906 and had held the post continuously since. From 1906 to 1918 when a new city charter was adopted, he was appointed annually but after that date, his assignment came biannually. His last appointment was on April 7, 1936, for two years. After receiving his twenty-second appointment to his post this year, he pointed out a dissenting vote never was cast against him by a member of the City Commission.

Chief Knight was active in State and national peace officer organizations. He served as president of the Texas Chiefs of Police and City Marshals' Association in 1911. He was named third vice-president of the association in 1934. He was a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and for several years was one of the vice-presidents for Texas of the Sheriffs and Police Officers' Association of America.

He was a member of the First Christian Church of Corsicana, the B.P.O.E., Knights of Pythias, I.O.O.F. and other fraternal organizations. His wife survives.

June 21, 1936

Notes:

  • Submitted by Karen Rost
  • Will S. Knight (17 Mar 1875 - 20 June 1936) & wife Maude Spivey Knight (8 Dec 1884 - 2 Dec 1957) buried at the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Navarro Co., TX (Section G. Row 6) ...additional info elw

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CORSICANA CHIEF OF POLICE PASSED AWAY ON SATURDAY

WILL S. KNIGHT, ONE BEST KNOWN TEXAS OFFICERS SUCCUMBS TO ILLNESS

Will S. Knight, aged 60 years, Corsicana police chief for the past 30 years, died in the Navarro clinic Saturday morning at 10 o’clock following several days serious illness. He had been in ill health for some time.

Funeral services will be held from the First Christian church Sunday afternoon at 5 o’clock with interment in
Oakwood cemetery.

Rev. Tom Lenox, now of Sweetwater, former pastor of the First Christian church here, will conduct the services, assisted by Rev. O. W. Reece, pastor of the church.

Active pallbearers will be A. G. Elliott, W. T. McElwee, N. F. Garrett, R. L. Wheelock, C. W. Taylor, Claude Cunningham, Ed M. Polk, Sr., Wesley Edens and Ed Rittersbacher.

Honorary pallbearers will be all city officials and employees and friends of the family.

Chief Knight was born in Leon county in 1876 and spent his early life there. While still in his teens, he moved to Navarro county and resided in Blooming Grove, Cryer Creek and other communities prior to moving to Corsicana. He was named as deputy sheriff by Sheriff Bob Allen before he reached his twenty-first birthday and spent the remainder of his life as a peace officer. Mr. Knight was elected city marshal at Blooming Grove in 1900 and was renamed in 1901-1902 and in Sept., 1902 he resigned the marshalship to become a deputy under Sheriff Joe Hale.

Named Chief in 1906.
In 1904, Knight was named on the Corsicana city police force by the late E. O. Call, mayor at that time, Knight was named chief of the department in 1906 and had held the post continuously since that time. From 1906 to 1918, when a new city charter was adopted, he was appointed annually, but after that date his assignment came biennially. His last appointment was on April 7, 1936, for two years. After receiving his twenty-second appointment to his post this year, he proudly pointed to the fact that he had never had a dissenting vote cast against him by a member of the city commission.

During his term of office, the chief several years ago estimated that he had handled well over 5,000 men and women with criminal records, and his career carried his service through the years of the oil booms in Corsicana and vicinity which attracted hundreds of undesirable characters to this section.

Identification Bureau
One of his proudest accomplishments was the installation of an identification bureau a number of years ago which now has on file thousands of records, photographs and fingerprint classifications of persons with criminal records both in Texas and other sections of the United States.

Chief Knight had been active in state and national peace officer organizations. He served as president of the Texas Chiefs of Police and City Marshall’s association in 1911 after serving in minor capacities for several years. He was named as third vice president of the association in 1934. He was a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and for several years was one of the vice presidents for Texas of the Sheriffs and Police Officers association of America.

He was a member of the First Christian church of Corsicana, also of the B. P. O. E., Knights of Pythias, I. O. O. F., and other fraternal organizations.

Surviving are his wife, nee Miss Maude Spivey of Blooming Grove, and a number of other relatives.

Was of Kindly Nature.
Although stern and uncompromising when dealing with criminals who sought to evade the law and the consequences of their crimes, Chief Knight was known as a man of tender sentiment and kindliness by those who knew him best and had opportunities to know the friendly side of the man. Even those who broke the law and came in contact with him as offenders often praised his absolute fairness and justice. There was nothing vindicative in his nature—just a faithfulness to his duty as guardian of the public as their chief law enforcement officer.

He loved his home and whenever his duties permitted he could be found at his own fireside. Truly a real man in every sense of the word and his passing will be keenly felt in all walks of the city’s life.

Sutherland-McCammon Funeral Home is in charge.

Notes:

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Maude Florence (Spivey) Knight
Dec 8, 1884 - Dec 2, 1957

Wednesday Rites For Mrs. Knight

Funeral services for Mrs. Will S. Knight , widow of the late Corsicana police chief, native of Blooming Grove, will be held from the First Christian Church Wednesday at 3 p.m. Burial will be in Oakwood cemetery. The rites will be conducted by Dr. Ambrose Edens of TCU, interim pastor of the church.
Mrs. Knight died in the Navarro Clinic Monday morning. She was stricken Saturday morning in her automobile near the post office and was rushed to the clinic.
She was long active in the First Christian church, serving as president of the Women's Missionary Society and as a teacher of a couples class in the Sunday School for years.
Surviving are four sisters, Mrs. J. H. Brooks, Corsicana; Mrs. Frank B. Taylor, Blooming Grove; Mrs. J. T. Fitzgerald, Port Neches; and Mrs. J. W. Stokes, Memphis, Texas, and a number of other relatives.

Pallbearers will be Wesley Eden, Jr.; C. B. Haley, Albert Fullerton, Byron Harwell , Allen Breithaupt and Perry McCammon.

Notes:


 


OAKWOOD CEMETERY, CORSICANA, NAVARRO CO., TX
Marker Photo by Karen Rost
 


OAKWOOD CEMETERY, CORSICANA, NAVARRO CO., TX
Marker Photo by Karen Rost



OAKWOOD CEMETERY, CORSICANA, NAVARRO CO., TX
Marker Photo by Karen Rost
 


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Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox