Marion Taylor (1940–2000)

Marion Taylor Jr. was the first African-American officer in the Arkansas State Police, serving as a public service spokesman and an instructor at the state police academy.

Marion Taylor Jr. was born on January 18, 1940, in Dermott (Chicot County) to Marion Taylor Sr. and Bessie White Taylor. His father supported the family with employment at Missouri Pacific Hospital and Our Lady of Nazareth Nursing Home, and the family attended St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County). A 1957 graduate of Horace Mann High School, Taylor earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock and an MS in education at what is now Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia (Clark County).

Taylor served with the U.S. Air Force from 1957 to 1963. On January 5, 1958, he married Betty Jean Toombs, a former classmate; the two had shared a homeroom class under the direction of Mrs. B. K. Underwood at Dunbar High School in 1953. Toombs was also plaintiff in the Aaron v. Cooper legal case for desegregating Little Rock’s public schools. After military service, Taylor joined the Little Rock Police Department as a patrolman.

In February 1967, the Arkansas State Police listed four names of African Americans who were applicants for employment. They were Lloyd Wilburn Worthy of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), Marion Taylor Jr., Clyde Leon Watson, and James Edward Morgan of Little Rock. Taylor was the first person of color hired, and he served as a public service spokesman. He was also an instructor in social science and public relations at the State Law Enforcement Academy. He traveled the state giving lectures, presentations, and demonstrations on safe driving. Worthy, Watson, and Morgan did not join the ranks at this time; instead, the first minority troopers were Taylor, Conrad S. Pattillo, Lynn J. Chachere, and Garfield Bridges. The four men became lifelong friends.

In 1973, Taylor accepted a position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, serving at the Murray Lock and Dam in Little Rock. Taylor later accepted a job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division and moved his family to the metropolitan area of Dallas, Texas. He retired after more than twenty-five years with the Corps.

Taylor died on January 19, 2000, and was survived by his wife and five sons. He is buried at Haven of Rest Cemetery in Little Rock.

For additional information:
Coffman, Dempsie. Arkansas State Troopers: A Breed Apart. Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2005.

“Deaths: Marion Taylor Jr.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 26, 2000, p. 2B.

Lindsey, Michael G. The Big Hat Law: Arkansas and Its State Police, 1935–2000. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2008.

Rhonda Stewart
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated: 02/19/2020