Google+ Badge BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Wednesday, 29 April 2015
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRICAN AMERICAN " RITA GROSS NELSON " YONKERS FIRST BLACK FEMALE POLICE OFFICER : GOES INTO THE " HALL OF BLACK HEROES "
Rita Gross Nelson, who was hired as a city parking enforcement officer in the 1960s and became Yonkers' first black female police officer, died Wednesday at age 77.
"Rita was no stranger to being first," Mayor Mike Spano said in a statement. "As the first black female police officer in the Yonkers police department and the first female officer promoted to the rank of detective, Rita not only paved the way for so many other minority and female officers, she set the bar."
Nelson was hired in 1964 for a yearly salary of $4,536 after graduating from Roosevelt High School and serving in the Air National Guard. She was one of the first four women — and the only black woman — named "policewoman" in 1965.
She spent many years working in the juvenile aid and community affairs units where she was known as "Miss Rita." She also had a stint as a detective and on patrol duty in the North Command.
Nelson retired from the police department in 1986 and held several positions after that, including chief of security for the Hudson River Museum and executive director of the Yonkers YMCA, and was in the safety department at Columbia University.
She also did volunteer work in the Yonkers schools to try to help kids stay out of trouble.
"This is my town. That's why I fight so hard to keep it right, " she told The Journal News in 1991.
She was hired at the Yonkers Board of Education as the first female court liaison, working closely with the judicial and school system, serving at-risk and incarcerated youth.
Nelson, a third-generation Yonkers resident, said then her deep roots in the city helped her connect with young people.
"Mostly these are my babies," she told The Journal News. "Every class I speak (to), I see somebody I know – the grandmother or the mother. It's amazing."
She is survived by three daughters, Maria George, Celleste Gilbert and Carol Gross.