Bill Logan with an award from the Evanston Police Department. Photo by Les Jacobson

Bill Logan’s life and career have been filled with achievements and honors. But at a low point, discouraged about his job and concerned about his future, he got some good advice from none other than the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1963 Dr. King stayed in Evanston while on a three-day visit to the area, speaking at local churches and synagogues. Mr. Logan, who was assigned to guard the civil rights leader, had been with the City’s Police Department for seven years, but was stymied: promotional opportunities seemed few and far between for African Americans.

“We were standing in front of the Orrington Hotel,” Mr. Logan reflected recently, “waiting for Dr. King’s car to take him back to the airport. He asked me about my future, and when I mentioned my indecision, he told me, ‘You need to hold on to your dreams.’ He said I could be anything I wanted to be, but that I must be prepared. Then he asked me about my schooling, and I told him I had one year of college. He said, ‘Education will be the key to your future.’”

It was advice Mr. Logan took to heart. A Korean War veteran, Mr. Logan went back to college under the GI Bill, eventually getting his B.A. in public administration. Years later, armed with his degree, he became the first African American chief of police in Evanston.

It was one of many firsts for Mr. Logan, who played a breakthrough role for African Americans in the City where he was born and raised. At Evanston Township High School he was the first black football captain, first black winner of the Myerson award for football excellence and first black senior class vice president. Later he was the Evanston Police Department’s first black lieutenant, captain and deputy chief as well as chief of police.

He was also a co-founder of the Chessmen Club, which provides college scholarships for needy students and food baskets at Christmas time every year; the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), a nationwide organization for African American police officers, which today has more than 3,000 members; and FAAM, the City’s popular after-school basketball program, now in its 45th year.

While Dr. King’s advice was critical, it was his father, Bill Logan Sr., who was his first mentor. Young Bill played football, basketball and baseball at ETHS, and while his father encouraged him to play sports, he made it clear that his education came first.

After graduating from ETHS in 1951, Mr. Logan tried out for the Chicago Cubs, then went to Western Illinois University on a football scholarship. With the Korean War looming, he left after a year to enroll in the Air Force, serving as a communications supervisor at the U.S. Air Force headquarters in Tokyo. “It was a good experience,” he said. “You learned command and control.”

Mr. Logan returned to Evanston in 1956 and, at his father’s encouragement, applied for a job with the Evanston Police Department. He worked there from 1957 to 1987.

When he assumed the role of chief, in 1984, his first priority was gang shootings, which were then claiming five or six lives a year. One of his first actions was to form the City’s first Gang Crimes unit. As a result of this and other measures, serious gang crimes dropped sharply.

As chief Mr. Logan developed a reputation for innovation. He instituted the first citizen research advisory committee, promoted the first female officer and convinced Richard M. Daley, State’s Attorney at the time, to assign a specially designated prosecutor to the City.

Perhaps his greatest legacy was introducing community policing, designed to bring police and the community closer together. He instituted foot and bike patrols and opened outpost stations and set up working groups to align the police with community and business organizations. He established volunteer organizations such as Mothers Against Gangs, and involved local clergy in law-enforcement efforts.

“Under Chief Logan, Evanston was one of the pioneers in community policing nationwide,” said Frank Kaminski, Park Ridge Chief of Police, who worked with Mr. Logan for many years at the Evanston Police Department. “That was huge.”

He also consulted with police departments around the country on hiring and promotional issues, and lectured nationwide on victim-assistance programs, which he had helped develop and implement in Evanston.

In 1987, after 30 years in the department, Mr. Logan retired to assume the job of Director of Safety and Security at ETHS, which he held until 2006. Once again, he launched many new and innovative programs, such as the school’s first crisis plan, hot line, annual in-service training and visitor sign-in system.

Throughout his career, he served as teacher and inspiration to many co-workers. “He is someone people look up to,” said Herb Stephens, with whom he worked at ETHS. “To this day I owe him everything I’ve done here.”

“He’s a great role model for so many of his peers and younger kids – as a police officer, athlete, family man and someone who has given back a lot to his community,” said Bob Reece, who coached FAAM basketball with him.

For all his efforts in law enforcement, education and the community, he has been extensively honored. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of NOBLE in 2001, he was cited by President George W. Bush. In 1991 he received the Those Who Excel award from the State Board of Education and in April 2013 the Life Service award from Family Focus.

Even in retirement he stays busy, connecting frequently with his children and grandchildren and serving on numerous boards such as the Evanston Community Foundation, the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, and St. Francis Hospital Community Outreach and Safety Committee.

Asked how he has managed to accomplish so much, he characteristically credits others. “Both at the police department and the high school I was fortunate to have some wonderful people who worked with me. I was always grateful for their knowledge, ideas and support.”

He also cites his father’s influence and the memorable time he spent with Dr. King early in his career. “Dr. King was very friendly and supportive. He talked and joked, but he was also very serious that we should make things better for the world.”

Bill Logan went on to do just that.

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently three consecutive Northern...