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Mayor swears in Jerry Wilson as police chief: 1969 | by Washington Area Spark
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Mayor swears in Jerry Wilson as police chief: 1969

Mayor Walter Washington swears in Jerry Wilson as District of Columbia police chief August 1, 1969 at the District (now Wilson) Building.


When Washington decided to appoint Jerry Wilson as police chief and made an announcement to that effect on July 9, 1969, Black United Front activist Reginald Booker disrupted the press conference.


Wilson was well-known for leading assaults on protesters and was the first officer to fire tear gas on 14th Street after police cleared Resurrection City in 1968 and at Howard University student protests in 1969.


He was also in charge of the police units that moved to quell disturbances in the city after the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where tear gas and mass arrests were used.


During Washington’s announcement, Booker, speaking for the BUF, continually interrupted the mayor shouting out repeatedly, “Mr. Mayor, I have a question.”


When Washington finally told Booker he could ask one question, Booker said:


“I want to know how you had the audacity to appoint this person who in the Washington community was the first to shoot teargas and was the first to shoot his gun—how could you foist this man on the black community?”


Washington responded quickly, “The appointment is made.”


Booker was a long-time rights activist dating to his junior high school days when he picketed a D.C. Woolworth’s that refused to seat black people. He marched with CORE to desegregate hospitals and department stores in the early 1960s.


After being drafted into the U.S. Army, he refused orders to Vietnam and later became an antiwar activist.


He helped Julius Hobson organize a school boycott in 1967 protesting the track system and urging the firing of school superintendent Carl Hansen.


He became active in and then chairman of the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis (ECTC) where he led the battles against new freeways, for the construction of the Metrorail system and for public takeover of the private bus company.


He also led a number of fights against police brutality, for black workers entering the construction crafts and to upgrade and promote black workers in the federal and District governments.


For a detailed account of Booker’s activism, victories and defeats, see


For more information and related images, see


Photo by Byron Schumaker. The image is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.


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Taken on August 1, 1969