Arthur Colsey

Arthur Colsey - 1936-09-16

Arthur Colsey, born in Kidderminster, England, in December 1872, embarked on a remarkable journey of public service and professional achievements. After joining his older brothers, John and Thomas, in America, he actively participated in the family’s thriving department store business at 9th and Market Street in Camden.

In 1894, Arthur married Lillian Thompson, and their union brought them two grandchildren, Arthur L. Colsey and Lillian Colsey. Notably, his niece, Alice M. Colsey, entered into wedlock with George A. Wonfor, a renowned Camden photographer, a few years after the turn of the century.

Arthur Colsey’s commitment to public service manifested in his tenure on City Council from 1907 to 1911, where he represented the Second Ward. During this period, he resided at 339 North 8th Street, sharing a neighborhood with prominent figures such as James Daly, the proprietor of a long-standing tavern at 8th and Linden Streets, and Walter Rowand, a respected member of the Camden Police.

In 1912, Mayor Charles H. Ellis recognized Colsey’s integrity and appointed him as a patrolman in the Camden Police Department. With dedication and diligence, he swiftly advanced through the ranks and became a distinguished detective. Even while on vacation, Colsey reported for duty and utilized his personal automobile to transport fellow officers following a jailbreak and the tragic murder of a turnkey, Isaac Hibbs, at the Camden County Jail in 1916.

Colsey’s contributions extended beyond the realm of law enforcement. He served as a trusted aide to Mayor Charles Ellis until 1922 and subsequently assumed the role of chief clerk of the police force. In 1924, during the challenging Prohibition years, he courageously headed Camden’s vice squad, responsible for maintaining law and order amidst the illicit activities of the era. One of his notable undertakings involved investigating the notorious “voodoo doctor” case of Dr. Hyghcock’s underground den on Liberty Street in 1925.

By 1930, Arthur and Lillian Colsey decided to relocate, establishing their residence at 2937 Stevens Street in East Camden. Eagerly engaging in political affairs, Colsey actively participated in the Twelfth Ward Republican Club and eventually secured the presidency in 1932, reflecting his esteemed standing within the community.

In December 1931, speculation arose regarding Colsey’s potential appointment as Chief of Police to replace Lewis H. Stehr, Jr., a position ultimately awarded to John W. Golden. However, upon Chief Golden’s retirement in June 1934, Mayor Roy R. Stewart entrusted Colsey with the role of Acting Chief of Police. Following an interim period, his appointment became permanent on August 30, 1934, aligning with the confirmation of Fire Chief John Lennox.

During his tenure as Chief of Police, Colsey faced significant challenges and worked closely with Commissioner Mary Walsh Kobus, who assumed the position of Director of Public Safety in 1935. Colsey’s effective leadership and collaboration with Commissioner Kobus helped navigate the complexities of maintaining public safety and order in Camden.

Tragically, on September 15, 1939, Arthur Colsey passed away in his sleep due to a heart attack, leaving behind a lasting legacy of dedication and service. His funeral took place at Arlington Cemetery in Pennsauken, NJ. In the wake of his untimely demise, Captain Ralph Bakley assumed the role of Acting Chief of Police, carrying forward Colsey’s commitment to safeguarding the city and its residents.

Arthur Colsey’s unwavering devotion, distinguished career, and enduring impact cement his place as a revered figure in Camden’s history, leaving behind a legacy of integrity, professionalism, and public service.


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