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Trailblazing policewoman dies in Memphis at 78

The first African-American woman to serve as an officer on the Atlanta Police Department, Linnie Hallmon Booker, who later moved to Memphis, died here this week. She was 78.

Born December 2, 1943, in Anniston, Ala., Booker was the eldest child of the late Rev. Warren G. Booker Sr. and the late Mrs. Zeporah Gilley Booker, in Anniston, Alabama. At the age of 63, she graduated from the Ministerial Course of Study at Emory University Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.

After receiving the call into the ministry and not being readily accepted into the United Methodist Church at that time, I was led to become the founder of Word of Life Full Gospel Ministry, Inc,” Booker said in notes she left for her obituary.

“The ministry consisted of radio broadcasts, food pantries, clothes closets, founding of the Women Interfaith Fellowship Conference, and Clergy Women Interfaith Support Group. I also pastored in Lexington and Coila (Blackhawk), Mississippi until 2000.”

Booker attended Ambrose High School in Lexington, Miss., graduating from Lexington Attendance Center in May 1961. Further studies included Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss. and Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena.

Her work career included employment with Saints Junior College and Holmes County Schools and as a resident manager of apartment complexes in Lexington and other areas in Mississippi. She also was the first African-American woman to serve as an officer with the Lexington Police Department.

Linnie Hallmon took a shot at joining the Atlanta Police Department and became the first African-American female officer on the force. She was featured in the 1971 edition of JET Magazine. (Screen capture)

For Booker, the journey to becoming a barrier-breaking, law enforcement officer started with her as a human resources “typer” for the department. Her duties consisted of answering the phone and running to city hall to get the mail (a job she “couldn’t stand”).

In her spare time, Booker took the police-officer entry exam and, after weeks of studying, she passed. In the 1970s, the APD didn’t hire women. When the call came with the message that she had been hired, she could barely hold back her emotions. 

“Let me tell you something, other than being in the pastoral ministry, the Atlanta Police Department was the best job I have ever had,” Booker once said in an interview with The New Tri-State Defender. “I went to work an hour before it was time for me to start.”

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings was the keynote speaker at the Citizens Police Academy graduation in Memphis in December 2018. This is the moment he learned Linnie Hallmon Booker, one of the graduates, was the first African-American female officer in the Atlanta Police Department. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/TSD Archives)

She leaves two brothers, Dr. Warren G. Booker Jr (Olivia) of Southaven, Miss., and Allen Wayne Gilley of Lexington, Miss; a sister, Dr. Hilda Williams (Dr. Charles) of Memphis; a daughter, Beverly Hallmon Anderson (Jerome) of Memphis; three sons, Warren A. Hallmon of Lexington, Miss,; Dr. Stephen (Alyia) Redmond of Douglasville, Ga.; Charles G. (Melissa) Williams of Memphis; a foster daughter, Charlotte Nicole Green of Jackson, Miss.; 12 grandchildren;10 great-grandchildren; several nieces and nephews, cousins and many other relatives and friends.

Services are set for noon July 17 at Holy Hill COGIC (Saints Academy) in Lexington, Miss.

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