Skip to main content

Herbert T. Jenkins papers

Collection number: ahc.MSS546

Scope and Contents

This collection documents Herbert T. Jenkins' career as the longest-serving police chief of Atlanta. Papers include correspondence, newspaper clippings, committee minutes, speeches, publications, and annual reports of the Atlanta Police Department and Fulton County Police Department. In addition are speeches, attendance reports, and planning materials related to Jenkins' participation in conferences as an attendee and speaker. Of particular note are documents pertaining to his work with civl rights leaders and events in Atlanta; his service as police chief during civil rights protests in the 1960s, and correspondence regarding the Kerner Commission.

The papers also include Jenkins' personal research; manuscripts; and books he wrote about Atlanta's history; books and publications pertaining to crime and policing; and studies collected by Jenkins including titles such as, Violence as Protest: A Study of Riots and Ghettos and Black Political Ascendancy in Urban Centers and Black Control of the Local Police Function. There is also documentation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral with a copy of the funeral eulogy given by Dr. Benjamin Mays and letters sent to Jenkins commending the Atlanta Police Department for their security measures taken during the funeral. Also of note are correspondence and reports regarding police investigations, police brutality, and civil action cases.


  • 1800-1983, undated


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Herbert Turner Jenkins (1907-1990) was born to Gordon (1887-1932) and Jennie Jenkins (1888-1978) in Lithonia, Georgia. The Jenkins family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1924, where Jenkin's father joined the police force. Jenkins was married to Margie Mason Jenkins (1905-1987), with whom he had two sons, James Sage (1935-2012) and Herbert T. Jenkins, Jr (1931-2005). From 1924-1931, Jenkins worked at the West End Ford Shop, where he also taught new car owners how to drive. Jenkins, the son and grandson of police officers, joined the Atlanta Police Department in 1931. His early years on the police force included serving as the official driver of Mayor James L. Key and as a member of the police motorcycle squad. He rose to the rank of captain in 1945, and Mayor William B. Hartsfield appointed him chief of police on February 2, 1947. During his tenure, the Atlanta Police Department hired its first African American officers in 1948, and its first women officers in 1957.

In 1967, Jenkins was the only southerner named by President Lyndon Johnson to the National Advisory Council on Civil Disorders (known as the Kerner Commission). Jenkins also served as president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and as special advisor to the United States Justice Department on civil rights. In 1972, Jenkins retired from the Atlanta Police Department and was named police chief emeritus for life. He went on to help organize the Fulton County Police Department in 1975 and to serve as a senior research associate of the Center for Research in Social Change at Emory University from 1973 to 1983.


9.174 linear ft. (22 document cases and one oversized folder)



Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 1976, with subsequent additions

Existence and Location of Copies

This collection has been digitized and is available on the African American Communities database, viewable at the Kenan Research Center.

Related Materials

Herbert Jenkins photographs, VIS 43, Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center

Bias in Description

As archivists, we acknowledge our role as stewards of information. We choose how individuals and organizations are represented and described in our archives. We are not neutral, and bias is reflected in our descriptions, which may not accurately convey the racist or offensive aspects of collection materials. Archivists make mistakes and might use poor judgment. In working with this collection, we often re-use language used by the former owners of the material. This language provides context but often includes bias and prejudices reflective of the time in which it was created.

The Kenan Research Center’s work is ongoing to implement reparative language where Library of Congress subject terms are inaccurate and obsolete. Kenan Research Center welcomes feedback and questions regarding our archival descriptions. If you encounter harmful, offensive, or insensitive terminology or descriptions, please let us know by emailing Your comments are essential to our work to create inclusive and thoughtful description.

Content Advisory

This collection contains original unedited versions of all content. Some material may contain depictions of violence, offensive language, or negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. There may be instances of racist language and depictions. These items are presented as part of the historical record for the purpose of education and research. The viewpoints expressed in this collection do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the Atlanta History Center or any of its officers, agents, employees, or volunteers.

Processing Information

This collection was reprocessed in 2023.

Herbert T. Jenkins papers
Hannah Stubblefield
October 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305