More to the Story with Staley: “Donut” Williams

Meet the 82-year-old man who was Chattanooga's first black police detective.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Every February, we celebrate Black History Month, honoring the generations of African Americans who faced adversity in gaining full citizenship in American society. There are many people in our area who broke barriers.

One man 82 years old now. For most of those 82 years, everybody’s known Napoleon Williams as Donut Williams.

Back in 1968, just four days before Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, Donut Williams became Chattanooga’s first black police detective.

That first day as such, nobody on the force offered to work with Williams. But he immediately made an arrest in a case.

All of a sudden, everybody wanted to work with him.

“The next day I recovered about three TVs from the Holiday Inn on Main Street. All of the other guys said it wasn’t fair. Different officers should work with me. But those in charge said no, you were all given the opportunity,” said “Donut” Williams.

Williams, who is a native Chattanoogan, went on to work for the force until his retirement in 1984. He retired as an Inspector-3. Equal to a captain.

He now looks back on breaking a barrier with pride. But back in ’68, it was a different story.

“I didn’t look at it like that. My job was to make sure this city was safe,” Williams said. “So four of us developed a team. We called ourselves the big four.”

Even now, Williams has strong opinions on policing. He still lets people know what he thinks.

Current CPD Assistant Police Chief Jerri Sutton says Williams doesn’t hold back.

“He’s made it very clear to me as to maintaining a legacy in the police department and the community. He wants to make sure we are involved,” Assistant Police Chief Sutton said.

Williams continued, “I’ve worked with all of the mayors and chiefs. I never had any problems. Because I had a reputation of making this city safe.”

He also held a reputation as a ground breaker in local law enforcement.

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