Obituary: Mount Clemens' first
black police officer dies

(MT. CLEMENS, Mich.) -- Bonner C. Upshaw loved a challenge.

He was Mt. Clemens' first African-American police officer and postal worker and regularly turned heads from those surprised to see a black man in uniform.

"He said those days were a struggle for him, but he was determined and strong-willed," said his daughter Raquel Culp. "He wanted to achieve those special accomplishments."

Mr. Upshaw, 68, of Mt. Clemens died on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2000 in St. Joseph Mercy Hospital-West in Clinton Township.

He was a graduate of Mt. Clemens High School and earned an academic scholarship to the University of Michigan. He also attended Wayne State University.

After serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, Mr. Upshaw returned home and got a job working in the post office. In 1960 he became a city police officer and served 25 years in that post before retiring.

He continued to work in a second, decade-long career with the First National Bank of Mt. Clemens, where he was an ATM technician.

In addition, he is a past president of the Macomb County branch of the NAACP and a lifelong member of Turner Chapel C.M.E. Church, where he was past president of the choir and a member of the Steward Board. He also was a member of the county Jury Commission.

"My father did everything; he was a special person," his daughter said. "He was a very big influence on the entire county."

Earlier, Mr. Upshaw, a versatile athlete, played football for the semi-professional Mt. Clemens Jugs, and semi-pro baseball for the Mt. Clemens Giants. He had tryouts with the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, but never reached the major leagues.

Active in local education, Mr. Upshaw was a member of the Mt. Clemens High School Association and past president of the Old and Young Alumni.

Survivors include Mr. Upshaw's wife, Dorothy; a son, Bonner III; two other daughters, Sharon and Karen; and two sisters, Delores Williams and Billie Triplett.

Visitation is from 2-4 p.m. Wednesday at the Harold W. Vick Funeral Home, 140 S. Main, Mt. Clemens.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday in Turner Chapel C.M.E. Church, 125 Clinton River Drive in Mt. Clemens.

Burial will be in Clinton Grove Cemetery, Clinton Township.

Bonner C. Upshaw, blazed trail for black police officers Santiago Esparza, and Jeremy Pearce; The Detroit News December 5, 2000, Tuesday Copyright 2000 The Detroit News, Inc. The Detroit News December 5, 2000, Tuesday Terms and Conditions Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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