Recalling First Black Appointed to New York Police Dept.

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His parents were among the last generation born into Southern slavery, and his own birth in 1883 was notable for another benchmark: At 16 pounds, he was the biggest baby ever recorded in North Carolina.

“I guess I’ve always wanted to be large, and I have been large,” Samuel Jesse Battle recalled decades later.

But his personal growth was threatened when, as a teenager, he was caught pilfering cash from a safe belonging to his boss, R. H. Smith, a landlord who predicted that within a year, the young man would be in prison.

“That was the turning point of my life,” said Battle, who avoided prosecution because the boss was a friend of his father, a Methodist minister. “I said, ‘From this day on, I shall always be honest and honorable, and I’m going to make Mr. Smith out a liar.’ ”...

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