Obituary: pioneering officer Pitmon Foxall III

(OMAHA, Neb.) -- Pitmon Foxall II broke many barriers during his time as an Omaha police officer.

After starting his career in 1953, Foxall went on to become the department's first black patrol sergeant and the first black lieutenant in charge of the homicide unit. He also was the city's first black public-safety director.

He died Thursday at age 70.

He was born May 8, 1930, in Milwaukee. When he started with the Omaha Police Department 23 years later, black officers worked only with each other and their assignments were restricted to the black community.

In addition, their pay and rank were lower, even though they did the same work as white police officers.

"There might have been obstacles that would have stopped some people," said son Pitmon Foxall III. "He was able to transcend those difficulties."

The Foxall family has a history of serving in law enforcement.

Pitmon Foxall III is a captain with the Omaha Police Department and his brother, Mark, is community-services program coordinator with the Douglas County Department of Corrections. Mark has also worked for the Omaha Police Department and the FBI in Los Angeles.

Pitmon Foxall II was a military policeman during the Korean War and while stationed in Germany.

A late uncle, Pitmon Foxall, spent 35 years as an Omaha officer and detective. He helped inspire Pitmon Foxall II to become a police officer, family members said, and the two worked together in the Police Department.

Throughout his 39-year law-enforcement career, Pitmon Foxall II was able to deal with challenges and remained optimistic.

"I think he used the adversity to his advantage." said Pitmon Foxall III.

Pitmon Foxall II retired in 1992 as public-safety director.

He oversaw the police, fire and 911 communications divisions. The Public Safety Department was dissolved the same year.

Before that, he spent almost 20 years working in department and community relations.

During an interview in 1992, he said community policing can help improve the city's racial climate.

Family members said he worked to improve relations within the department and in the community as a whole.

"He knew so many people and was so well-liked," Mark Foxall said. "In the 1960s and 1970s, it was fashionable to say negative things about the police and I don't know of anyone who was negative to him."

Pitmon Foxall II also worked with young people in the city through camps.

In an interview in 1968, he said the camps were a learning process for both kids and officers.

He also was involved with a basketball league for youngsters and a ride-along program through which citizens could witness police work firsthand.

During retirement, he enjoyed hunting and fishing. He was an outdoorsman, his sons said.

He is also survived by wife Martha J. Foxall; brother Collins Foxall, three grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

A service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Clair Memorial United Methodist Church, 5544 Ames Ave. A wake will be held from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at Thomas Mortuary, 3920 N. 24th St.

(iSyndicate; Omaha World-Herald; Nov. 18, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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