Retired Policeman Ira Graham, 91

Posted: January 27, 1988

Ira Graham, a retired Philadelphia police officer who was active in civic and political organizations, died Sunday. He was 91 and lived in North Philadelphia.

Graham served on the police force from 1926 to 1952.

In 1940, he became one of the first black patrolmen to be taken off a foot beat and given a "Red Car" for patrolling the 23rd District in North Philadelphia. This was the result of a decade-long campaign by the North Philadelphia Civic League to have black police officers assigned to cars.

Graham received a number of commendations during his years on the force, one of them for catching three children - Charles, Margaret and Nellie Bason - as they were dropped one after the other from a third-floor window during a house fire.

For many years he served as a Democratic committeeman in the 22nd Division of the 29th Ward. He was an old-school committeeman who would answer a knock on his door at 2 a.m. to get someone out of jail.

While on the police force in those early years, he also saw some of the old-school hiring practices that persisted for many years.

Agnes Graham, his daughter-in-law, said he told the story of how some officers in those days could scarcely read or write. At the time, it was not uncommon for an application for the Police Department to be accompanied by several hundred dollars for the committeeman who signed it as a reference, she said.

"He had a lot of ambition and drive, and he drove everybody around him, too," said his daughter-in-law, who became as close to him as a daughter.

"He wanted everybody to be ambitious," she said.

If he had determination and knew where he was going, it was because he had an awareness of where his family had come from. His grandfather had been a plantation slave, and he recalled the stories his grandfather and father had told him.

Agnes Graham said the slavemasters had taught Ira's grandfather to do bricklaying and carpentry work, skills which were passed down to Ira.

Graham, who was born in Saluda, S.C., served stateside as an Army cook during World War I. In 1920, he became part of the great migration of blacks coming north to look for work.

After arriving in Philadelphia, he worked as a cook at Kelly's Seafood Restaurant and as a stone mason while attending night classes at the Durham School and Central High School. He later attended Temple University to study real estate and law.

Once established in Philadelphia, he organized and became president of the Saluda Club, a group that helped newcomers from Saluda get on their feet in Philadelphia. In later years, as migration from down home slowed to a trickle, it became more of a social organization.

"He would tell about coming to Philadelphia and how he wanted to get ahead," said Agnes Graham. "He lived his life to be somebody."

He served eight years at sergeant-at-arms for the Pennsylvania General Assembly and in 1969 lost a close race for the state House of Representatives.

Over the years he bought and sold real estate in the Ottsville area of Bucks County and enjoyed hunting and fishing. He also farmed property he had in Bucks County and on ground in Williamstown, N.J., owned by his son, Ira, who died in 1986.

Until very recently he enjoyed excellent health. As late as 1986 he still planted and tended a small garden in Williamstown.

Agnes recalled that one day in June 1968, after she had moved in with him, Graham said he was going around the corner to get a newspaper.

When he didn't come back in a reasonable time, she noticed that his car was gone.

"I called the police in Williamstown and asked them to go to the house," she said. "They found him sitting under a tree in the yard, looking at his garden."

He was a member of Thankful Baptist Church, where he served on the board of trustees.

In 1926, the same year he joined the police force, he married the former Edna Parsons. She died last year.

In addition to his daughter-in-law, he is survived by two grandsons, Charles Allen and Ira Ronald Graham, and a foster daughter, Edna Derry.

Services will be at 8 p.m. Friday at Thankful Baptist Church, 1608 W. Allegheny Ave., where friends may call beginning at 6 p.m. Burial will be in Mount Peace Cemetery, 3111 W. Lehigh Ave.


Murray Forst Thompson, a retired Philadelphia attorney who was active in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, died Sunday. He was 81 and lived in Fort Myers, Fla.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Thompson joined the law firm of Saul, Ewing and Saul in 1932. He practiced there until 1944, when he joined the Philadelphia agency of Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. He retired in 1971.

Thompson devoted much of his life to the work of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, of which he was an elder and founding member in 1936. He also was active in Westminster Theological Seminary and served as treasurer from 1937 to 1969 and as trustee from 1936 until his death.

He was a member of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and a trustee for many years of the Presbyterian Guardian, a monthly magazine. In 1941 he wrote a book, "The Auburn Betrayal."

Survivors include two daughters, Elizabeth DeKorne and Mrs. D. Robert Yarnall; a son, Joshua C.; and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 8 p.m. Friday at Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Church Road and Willow Grove Avenue, Glenside, Montgomery County.


Dr. Henry P. Bellew, a retired osteopathic physician, died Sunday. He was 73 and lived in Moorestown, N.J.

Bellew retired last year after marking his 50th year as a doctor. For 30 years he had a practice in Philadelphia before moving to Moorestown. He was a 1937 graduate of Philadelphia College of Osteopathy and was on technical staff for a time.

He is survived by his wife, the former Margaret Liberkowski; a son, Robert; a daughter, Betty Boyd; three brothers, Bernard, Lawrence and Phillip; and four grandchildren.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Moorestown. Burial will be in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Moorestown.

Friends may call between 7 and 9 tonight at the McChesney Funeral Home, 30 W. Main St., Moorestown.

Contributions may be made to Alzheimer's Disease, Tri-County New Jersey Chapter, 39 Lafferty Drive, Cherry Hill, N.J. 08002.


Margaret S. Addison, a retired employee of Widener University, died Friday. She was 74 and lived in West Chester, Chester County.

The former Margaret Scott worked in the registrar's office of the university for about 10 years before retiring in 1980. She had lived in Edgemont, Delaware County, for about 25 years before moving to West Chester.

She was a member of the Gradyville Methodist Church.

Her late husband was George D. Addison.

Surviving are three daughters, Joan Sharp, Janet Eichinger and Peggy Turberville; 10 grandchildren, and a sister-in-law, Evelyn Addison.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Gradyville Methodist Church, Route 352, Gradyville. There will be no calling hours. Burial will be private.

Contributions may be made to the Gradyville Methodist Church.


William J. McKeon, a retired linotype operator, died Sunday. He was 74 and lived in Holmes, Delaware County.

McKeon was a linotype operator for more than 40 years before retiring in 1979. He was born in Philadelphia and later lived in Upper Darby. He was a member of Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church in Secane and the Philadelphia Typographical Union, Local 2.

He is survived by his wife, the former Mae Hawksby; two sons, Thomas and William; three sisters, Helen Brown, Anne McKeon and Mildred Blair; and a grandson.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Our Lady of Fatima Church, South Avenue, Secane, where friends may call one hour before the service. Burial will be in Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Sproul and Crum Creek roads, Marple Township, Delaware County.

Contributions may be made to the American Heart Association, P.O. Box 12, Newtown Square, Pa. 19073, or the American Lung Association, 1502 West Chester Pike, West Chester, Pa. 19380.

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