A brief bio of
Aug. 10, 1926 -- June 10, 2002

These notes only sketch an outline of the long and illustrious career of one of New York's own. The images are scanned from photos in the archives maintained by the NYCHS at the NYC Correction Academy.

Benjamin Ward was born on Aug. 10, 1926, in Brooklyn's Weeksville section, one of 11 children. Among them, only he and four others survived childhood illnesses.

NYC Correction Commissioner Benjamin Ward, Chief of Operations Jacqueline McMickens and other top DOC leadership listen to Mayor Edward I. Koch's remarks at a departmental event. The webmaster has been told that Warden John Cunningham is seated behind the empty chair and that ADW Tom Murray, then the Commanding Officer of the Training Academy, is the uniformed individual standing.
Drafted into the Army after graduating Brooklyn Automotive Trades High School in 1944, he served as an MP and a criminal investigator with the Army in Europe for two years.

Mr. Ward entered the NYPD on June 1, 1951 as a patrolman, becoming the first black officer assigned to Brooklyn's 80th Precinct.

During the next 15 years in uniform, he rose through the ranks to Lieutenant, serving in the Patrol Division, Juvenile Aide Division, Detective Division, and Legal Bureau. His rise was aided, in part, by his after-work studies at Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School that earned him undergraduate and law degrees -- invariably with top honors.

He eventually served as special legal counsel to Police Commissioner Howard R. Leary. Ben left the uniformed ranks to become executive director of NYPD's Civilian Complaint Review Board in 1966.

Mayor Koch joins Commissioner Benjamin Ward and Dr. Jess Maghan, right, Assistant Commissioner of the Correction Academy, in honoring CO James Early for his off-duty role in apprehending a robbery suspect fleeing a bank holdup in the Bronx. Early joined NYC DOC on Sept. 17, 1984, and the incident happened on the third anniversary of that date. He served many years as a Correction Academy firearms instructor before his retirement in July 2002.
Two years later he was named a Deputy Police Commissioner, serving as chief hearing officer in all departmental disciplinary matters.

Later he became Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs with responsibilities for the Youth Aid Division and the Auxiliary Forces Section.

Mayor John V. Lindsay designated Ward as Traffic Commissioner in 1973. Under his leadership, uniformed traffic controllers from his agency took on street duties, thereby freeing hundreds of police officers from traffic direction posts. The following year he headed up what is now known as the Criminal Justice Agency that performs a bail risk evaluations.

In 1975, Gov. Hugh L. Carey named him State Correctional Services Commissioner, heading one of the nation's largest prisons systems, with 20,000 inmates, 20,000 parolees and 12,000 employees. He was the first African American to hold that position.

NYC Correction Commissioner Benjamin Ward is introduced at a promotion ceremony. The webmaster has been told that, in addition to Ward, the people in the picture are, from left to right, Warden John Cunningham, Warden Vernon Bain, Personnel Director Helen Tanzosh, Supervising Warden Alexander Jenkins and Supervising Warden Gloria Lee.

Three years later, Mayor Edward I. Koch named him to the first of three posts in his administration: Chief of the New York City Housing Authority Police. It was the fifth largest police department in the state, providing protection to 600,000 in the HA's 254 developments.

In August of the following year, he was designated to run the New York City Correction Department, heading the largest municipal detention system in the world. When named NYC Correction Commissioner in 1979, he became the second African American to head the city correction agency. The first, Benjamin Malcolm, died last year.

Ward served at city Correction until sworn in by Mayor Edward I. Koch as the city’s 34th Police Commissioner on Jan. 5, 1984. He was the first African American to hold that position.

NYC Correction Commissioner Benjamin Ward at the microphone addresses promotion ceremony audience as his Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs, Edward Hershey, seated left, listens.

His long career didn't really close when he retired Oct. 22, 1989 as NYC Police Commissioner. Even in retirement, Ben Ward remained active, teaching and serving on various boards until failing health forced him to curtail such endeavors.

He served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, an Adjunct Professor of Corrections at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and an adjunct professor of the Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.

Benjamin Ward passed away on Monday, June 10, 2002, at age 75. He is survived by his wife, the former Olivia Irene Tucker, a retired New York City public school principal; three daughters, Jacquelyn Ward, Margie Ward-Lewis and Mary Ward; two sons, Benjamin Jr. and Gregory; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The funeral mass was offered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 5th Ave at 51st on Friday. Arrangements were under the direction of the Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Ave. at 81st St., Manhattan.

Return to Commissioner Benjamin Ward In Memoriam Starter Page
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To NYC DOC Commissioner Ward newsletter excerpts: I
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