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R. Lee Heath scrapbook

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: 7117

Scope and Contents

Robert Lee Heath (1881-1974) joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1904 and rose through the ranks to serve as Chief of Police from 1924-1926. The R. Lee Heath scrapbook contains a total of more than 200 newspaper clippings and items of ephemera. Heath began this scrapbook in 1913, at about the time he was placed in command of the Boyle Heights division. He clipped newspaper articles written about or by police (e.g., "Officer Leo W. Marden Commanding the Juvenile Bureau of the Police Department, Writing His Views on How Best to Curb the Forces of the Underworld in Los Angeles") and on unusual or sensational crimes and criminals, incidents in which Los Angeles police were injured or killed, and occasional unrelated subjects. In 1917, two days after the United States entered World War I, Heath was charged with supervising companies of armed citizens who had signed up to be home guardsmen. His scrapbook includes two articles on this work (Home Guard is Ready for Defense," "Many Rush to Join; Home Guards Ready") and another reporting that "Enemy Aliens in Los Angeles Are Ordered to Disarm." Heath's leadership qualities (and ambitions) are further documented by articles from 1918-1920 describing his work as chairman of a new Police Relief Association and head of a new police training school. "The average policeman believes he has a right to arrest anyone, at any time, or at any place," he is quoted as saying. "We are going to instruct the officers on the legal rights of a police officer, and we hope to make all the members of the department familiar with the rights of the citizen, as well as their own."

August 1921 saw a shake-up in the LAPD administration, made in conjunction with a major anti-vice campaign. Heath was given command of Central Division and proclaimed "Tell the gamblers, proprietors of dives and resorts and all violators of the anti-vice laws that we are coming." In additional to more than 30 clippings on the anti-vice campaign (many reporting successful raids and arrests), the scrapbook includes an internal police bulletin (probably written by Heath) ordering "all patrolmen to make at least one inspection during their tour of duty of all reported or suspected houses of prostitution, gambling, book-making establishments, blind pigs, lottery joints, or any other places where they have reason to believe the law is being violated." But Heath's apparent triumph lasted only a few months; in mid-November he was transferred back to his previous command. No clear explanation was given, but the articles Heath saved speculated that he had been so effective in his anti-vice campaign that powerful local politicians and businessmen complained to--and possibly bribed--the police chief or mayor. Other articles describe a rapid increase in illegal gambling after Heath's removal. Then, on January 22, 1922, the police chief (Charley Jones) bowed to public criticism and resigned. Over the next two years, Heath worked under three different Chiefs, and the scrapbook documents his crime-fighting accomplishments in various positions, including commander of the newly created Wilshire Division and Assistant Chief.

The descriptive content in this note was adapted from the seller's (Walkabout Books) description of the scrapbook.

Dates

  • 1913 - 1924

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Lee Heath (1881-1974) joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1904 and rose through the ranks to serve as Chief of Police from 1924-1926. Heath began this scrapbook in 1913, at about the time he was placed in command of the Boyle Heights division. He clipped newspaper articles written about or by police (e.g., "Officer Leo W. Marden Commanding the Juvenile Bureau of the Police Department, Writing His Views on How Best to Curb the Forces of the Underworld in Los Angeles") and on unusual or sensational crimes and criminals, incidents in which Los Angeles police were injured or killed, and occasional unrelated subjects. In 1917, two days after the United States entered World War I, Heath was charged with supervising companies of armed citizens who had signed up to be home guardsmen. His scrapbook includes two articles on this work (Home Guard is Ready for Defense," "Many Rush to Join; Home Guards Ready") and another reporting that "Enemy Aliens in Los Angeles Are Ordered to Disarm." Heath's leadership qualities (and ambitions) are further documented by articles from 1918-1920 describing his work as chairman of a new Police Relief Association and head of a new police training school. "The average policeman believes he has a right to arrest anyone, at any time, or at any place," he is quoted as saying. "We are going to instruct the officers on the legal rights of a police officer, and we hope to make all the members of the department familiar with the rights of the citizen, as well as their own."

August 1921 saw a shake-up in the LAPD administration, made in conjunction with a major anti-vice campaign. Heath was given command of Central Division and proclaimed "Tell the gamblers, proprietors of dives and resorts and all violators of the anti-vice laws that we are coming." In additional to more than 30 clippings on the anti-vice campaign (many reporting successful raids and arrests), the scrapbook includes an internal police bulletin (probably written by Heath) ordering "all patrolmen to make at least one inspection during their tour of duty of all reported or suspected houses of prostitution, gambling, book-making establishments, blind pigs, lottery joints, or any other places where they have reason to believe the law is being violated." But Heath's apparent triumph lasted only a few months; in mid-November he was transferred back to his previous command. No clear explanation was given, but the articles Heath saved speculated that he had been so effective in his anti-vice campaign that powerful local politicians and businessmen complained to--and possibly bribed--the police chief or mayor. Other articles describe a rapid increase in illegal gambling after Heath's removal. Then, on January 22, 1922, the police chief (Charley Jones) bowed to public criticism and resigned. Over the next two years, Heath worked under three different Chiefs, and the scrapbook documents his crime-fighting accomplishments in various positions, including commander of the newly created Wilshire Division and Assistant Chief.

Heath's tenure as Chief of Police is not covered in this scrapbook, but he is remembered elsewhere for overseeing the construction of five new police stations and the creation of forensic labs and a new police training division.

The descriptive content in this note was adapted from the seller's (Walkabout Books) description of the scrapbook.

Extent

1 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Robert Lee Heath (1881-1974) joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1904 and rose through the ranks to serve as Chief of Police from 1924-1926. The R. Lee Heath scrapbook contains a total of more than 200 newspaper clippings and items of ephemera. Heath began this scrapbook in 1913, at about the time he was placed in command of the Boyle Heights division. He clipped newspaper articles written about or by police (e.g., "Officer Leo W. Marden Commanding the Juvenile Bureau of the Police Department, Writing His Views on How Best to Curb the Forces of the Underworld in Los Angeles") and on unusual or sensational crimes and criminals, incidents in which Los Angeles police were injured or killed, and occasional unrelated subjects. The scrapbook documents Heath's accomplishments in various positions, including as commander of the LAPD's newly created Wilshire Division and as the LAPD's Assistant Chief. Heath's tenure as Chief of Police is not covered in this scrapbook, but he is remembered elsewhere for overseeing the construction of five new police stations and the creation of forensic labs and a new police training division.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Walkabout Books, March 8, 2021.

Title
Finding aid for the R. Lee Heath scrapbook
Status
Completed
Author
Bo Doub
Date
2021 June
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States