George Napper, Atlanta’s first Black police chief, dies at 81

ATLANTA — George Napper, the first Black police chief for the City of Atlanta, died at the age of 81 Friday night.

He died at his southwest Atlanta home after a 30-year battle with Kennedy’s disease, according to our partners at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Napper led the department from 1978 until 1982 when he was named Atlanta’s public safety director.

He also helped found the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (N.O.B.L.E) and became the first head of Georgia’s Department of Children and Youth Services.

Atlanta police will honor the former chief with special bands on their badges.


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms released the following statement Saturday morning on Napper’s passing:

“A brilliant teacher and leader, Chief George Napper broke barriers and embodied the progress of our city during a long and distinguished career with the Atlanta Police Department. The City of Atlanta is thankful for the service and commitment of Chief George Napper and we offer our deepest condolences to his loved ones," she said.

The Atlanta City Council released the following statement about Napper and his impact on the city.

“George Napper exemplified the best of law enforcement in our city. As Atlanta’s first African American police chief, he was a trailblazer and showed his commitment to our city every day in his service and the role he played in many significant investigations. Chief Napper was a friend, role model, and mentor to people throughout our community and he will be remembered very fondly. We join family and friends in honoring his life and commemorating his enduring legacy.”

Napper grew up in Auburn, California and later served in the Marine Corps. He graduated from University of California at Berkeley with a doctoral degree in criminology.

Napper later taught sociology at Spelman College and psychology at Emory University.

Napper served as police chief during one of the darkest times in Atlanta history.

From 1979 to 1982, the Atlanta Child Murders haunted the city as at least 25 Black children were killed in areas around Memorial Drive along with several other adults. The case ended with the arrest and conviction of Wayne Williams in 1982.

Information from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was used in this report.