Few Lansing Police chiefs have shepherded the force through more tumultuous times than Alfred Jackson Seymour. Recruited as a veteran lieutenant from Detroit in 1918, Seymour headed the Lansing Police Department for 20 years. During his tenure, Prohibition ran its course, the first Red Scare came and went, nativism escalated, violence in the labor movement increased, the Klu Klux Klan emerged stronger than ever in mid-Michigan and the United States plunged into the Great Depression.
In uniform in various pictures, Seymour displays a perpetual glower, even when paired with other officers. Thickly built, his eyes were narrowed in focus and intense. The wide, slightly bulbous, bridge of his nose suggests an intimate knowledge of fisticuffs. Seymour’s handwritten description of his experience during the Lansing Labor Holiday in 1937 intimates a man conversant with violence, giving and receiving.
Accompanied by his formidable presence, Seymour was adept at politics. He served as Vice President and President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Vice-President of the United States Calvin Coolidge thanked and praised him and the LPD in a letter dated April 1922. That same month, incoming Lansing Mayor Jacob W. Ferle began a “drive” to vanquish Seymour as chief. Ferle was gone by 1923. Seymour retired in 1937, serving in the Detroit and Lansing Police Departments a combined 47 years. During his retirement dinner, “crack” state police detectives and Ingham County Sheriff officers staffed the jail and the detective bureau, drove patrol cars and walked the beat so the entire LPD could attend.
At some point, Seymour became acquainted with and befriended a rising star in the U.S. Justice Department, John Edgar Hoover. In a letter dated August 16, 1933, Hoover thanked Seymour. “Upon my appointment as Director of Investigation in the Department of Justice, I want to express to you my sincere appreciation for the support and interest which you have manifested in my behalf.” Hoover had been named Director of the Bureau by Calvin Coolidge in 1924. Seymour appears to have served as a mentor. More than once Hoover asked Seymour for advice and counsel.
In a letter dated April 25, 1933 Hoover, sent well wishes to Seymour, who was suffering from appendicitis. Hoover wrote of the acting Chief of the LPD, “Chief Seymour is not only one of the most important factors upon which the structure of law enforcement rests in this county, but he has been a very loyal and sincere friend to me…if there is anything I can do in any way please do not hesitate to advise me.”
Several Christmas cards from Hoover to Seymour still exist.
Seymour died in June of 1953 at the age of 86. A story about his life and career appeared in the LSJ 11 months before he died. In the article he stated the “most baffling” case he ever worked on involved the murder of a Lansing “socialite” in 1922. She was murdered in her home on Britten Ave. directly behind Seymour’s house. Seymour contends a carnival worker did the slaying.
“There was a carnival in town that day, and we got Sheriff  Silsby’s blood-hounds and tracked the guy right down to the Grand Trunk Railroad on Washington. And as far as I know that is where the Britten murder case ended, never had another clue.”
Lansing State Journal Newspaper 04/22/1922
Lansing State Journal Newspaper 10/01/1939
Lansing State Journal Newspaper 07/22/1952
Lansing State Journal Newspaper 06/27/1953
Unpublished Letter from J. Edgar Hoover to Alfred Seymour 05/20/1932
Unpublished Letter from Alfred Seymour to J. Edgar Hoover 07/11/1932
Unpublished Letter from J. Edgar Hoover to Alfred Seymour 07/15/1932
Unpublished Letter from J. Edgar Hoover to Alfred Seymour 07/27/1932
Unpublished Letter from J. Edgar Hoover to Alfred Seymour 09/16/1932
Unpublished Letter from J. Edgar Hoover to Alfred Seymour 04/25/1933
Unpublished Letter from J. Edgar Hoover to Alfred Seymour 08/16/1933
Unpublished handwritten description of the Lansing Labor Holiday by Chief Seymour
The story of Reo Joe : work, kin, and community in Autotown, U.S.A. by Lisa M. Fine, 2004.
The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition by Athan G. Theoharis, 1988
Unpublished correspondence of Alfred Seymour from the Capital Area District Library Special Collections
Images Courtesy of the Capital Area District Library Special Collections