Funeral arrangements have been set for Paducah’s First African American police chief. Robert Patterson died on Sunday at the age of 81.
Patterson worked his way up through the Paducah police force and was appointed to police chief in 1985. He retired in 1992.
Paducah-McCracken County NAACP branch president J.W. Cleary said Patterson was a “true and fair person.” He said racial tensions at the time in Paducah and across the country didn’t stop Patterson from doing his job.
“You even had white Americans that were police officers that refused to work under a black police chief." Cleary said. "But Robert didn’t let that bother him- he just kept doing what he thought was right.”
Cleary said Patterson says Patterson’s position as police chief was important for breaking barriers. He said, in appointing African Americans to prominent city roles, Paducah was diverse compared to other parts of the state.
“Even before they had police officers throughout the state, we had them here in Paducah, Kentucky. It was unheard of to see a fire chief- we had a fire chief that was an African American." Cleary said. "So we were more diverse than a lot of areas.” Cleary is referring to Redell Benton, who retired in 2008. Services for Patterson are at the Pettus-Rowland Funeral Home in Paducah. Visitation is Saturday from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. and will be followed by a funeral service.