This past Friday, a local Tulsa family received their flowers for their history of firsts within the city’s police department, beginning with its matriarch. In 1939, the late Mary B. Horn became Tulsa’s first Black policewoman at the age of 42.
A host of family members gathered briefly Friday morning for a small ceremony to celebrate her legacy. Among those in attendance were her 92 year old daughter in law Kathleen Horn, and five of her children. Mary B. Horn’s late son, Kermit, was the Tulsa Police Department’s first Black lieutenant. Kathleen became his widow. Another son, Clifford, became one of the city’s first Black firefighters.
And while there was and still in much honor in the Horn history of firsts, the day was very much still in honor of Mary B.’s legacy. Mary was born in Texas and later moved to Tulsa in 1917. Her father’s business was destroyed in the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 as she had two young children.
As she was twice widowed with two children, Mary needed to support herself and her family. She eventually landed a job with the police department. She ended up serving 23 years, working with juveniles and women, and also as a vice officer. She died in 1987.
According to local papers, Horn was hired “to stop immorality and to halt ‘night life’ among the younger element in the Greenwood section of Tulsa.”
She later told a reporter, “We had a lot of prostitution in those days, and a lot of youngsters, particularly girls, getting mixed up in bad business.”
“Many of those girls thought I was cruel and mean because I kept kicking them out of those places,” Horn said at the end of her career. “They used to say, ‘I wish Old Lady Horn would drop dead.’
“Some who were delinquents then are adult delinquents today. But I think I helped some. I always tried to make them understand they were human and made a mistake.”
Mary B. Horne was inducted into the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Hall of Fame in 2017.