John Howard Grant, 89, ex-cop once on the Dick Anderson squad

John Grant
John Grant
Posted: June 22, 2012

BACK IN THE 1940s, black cops in Philadelphia didn't get much respect. White cops rarely associated with them, they weren't allowed to ride in squad cars; they couldn't be promoted to a rank above sergeant.

And then along came Richard H. Anderson, who in 1943 assembled a squad of black officers who set about battling crime, mostly in black neighborhoods but elsewhere in the city, too, using tactics that would make civil-rights advocates cringe today. They knocked heads, ignored the niceties of search warrants, never heard of habeas corpus, and locked up suspects for days without charges.

But they were effective. In the nine years of its existence, the Dick Anderson Squad, as it was known, scored thousands of arrests, struck fear into the hearts of evildoers wherever they raised their ugly heads, were embraced by merchants and honest citizens for their often ruthless efficiency, and were respected by police brass who could see beyond their prejudices.

The squad's survivors have diminished over the years, of course, and now another member of that legendary aggregation has died. John Howard Grant, a Philly cop for almost 30 years, died June 9. He was 89 and was living in Charlotte, N.C., but had lived most of his life in West Philadelphia.

That leaves only two other members of the squad still living: Frank Winfrey, 97, and James N. Reaves, 98.

John Grant joined the police force in 1945 after a stint in the Navy during World War II. He soon became a member of the Dick Anderson Squad, who was an uncle of famed singer Marian Anderson, at the direction of then-Police Superintendent Howard P. Sutton. Its headquarters were at 12th and Pine streets.

Anderson, who died in 1964, was a strict taskmaster. He insisted not only on impeccable behavior by his cops, but also on impeccable dress, a habit that remained with Grant all his life.

"Dick Anderson was very strict," a former member of the squad recalled in an interview in 2000. "He wanted you to be tough. You didn't take any crap. If there was a fight, you got into it."

Grant met those criteria.

He was a guy who always kept himself in great shape. A runner in high school, he was competing in master track meets in his 50s, and was still jogging in his 80s.

Grant was born in Philadelphia to John A. Grant Jr. and Helen Humphrey. He graduated from Overbrook High School in 1942. He was a champion runner, competing in the 440-, 220- and 300-yard events, and was an anchor on winning relay teams at the Penn Relays in 1939, 1940 and 1941. He won first place in the 100- and 200-yard dash at masters events in 1970 and 1974 in a category for runners between 50 and 59.

"He was a natty dresser," said longtime friend Madeline A. Stewart. "We called him ‘Mr. Esquire.' At a picnic, he would be the only one in a suit, shirt and tie."

John retired from the police force in 1974 and became an investigator for the Legal Aid Society for 20 years.

He also was a devoted world traveler.

"He was a hell of a dancer," said another longtime friend, Marlene Sparrow. "He would show pictures of himself with a bevy of beauties. He enjoyed his life."

He is survived by a daughter, Anita Trader.

There will be no funeral service. Burial will be private.

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