By Lieutenant Robert Settembre

James T. Duane was born on December 20, 1885, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. His father died attempting a rescue during a town flood. Soon after, his mother moved to New York City, where James went through high school. Finally settling in Clinton, Massachusetts, James pursued a career in theater and became known as an accomplished actor. He began to appear in plays with the likes of Hollywood legends such as Douglas Fairbanks.

In 1904, James Duane joined the Massachusetts National Guard as a member of Company K, 9th Regiment. Duane rose quickly through the military ranks these due to his leadership abilities. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant during the Mexican border conflict of 1916. He was mustered out in January 1917 and recalled as a private by July 1917. He was assigned to officers’ school in Plattsburg, New York, but asked and received a deferment to go to war when Company K sailed for France in September of 1917. He was promoted to Sergeant Major, then to 2nd Lieutenant. Following the battle of Chatau Thiery, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant.

The promotions continued and at the battle of St. Michel, he was promoted to Captain. The following September, he became a Major and commanded two full battalions. During the war, James was gassed and wounded at the legendary battle of Verdun. He led many reconnaissance patrols and painfully witnessed his fellow soldiers fall in battle. Due to his bravery, he was awarded the Silver Star with two Clusters, the Purple Heart, five Major Battle Stars and was recommended seven times for the Distinguished Service Cross. To commemorate his experiences, he wrote a book about his unit entitled Dear Old K (Company K).

After the war, James Duane was not one to stay still for long. He was quickly elected as a delegate to the committee that went to Paris, France on March 15, 1919, which actually founded the American Legion. Due to his effort and tireless dedication, he was elected a lifelong member of the Society of American Legion founders. Mr. Duane was later appointed Assistant State Treasurer of Massachusetts and dispersed $20 million of bonus funds to World War I veterans. He opened a jewelry store and owned a dry goods business. James again pursued acting and headed his own theater troupe. On October 12, 1927, Mr. James Duane married the love of his life, Miss Margaret V. Walsh of Framingham, Massachusetts. Over a thousand friends, family and well-wishers as well as senators and other dignitaries attended the wedding.

On January 9, 1937, Mr. James Duane left Framingham with his young wife and three children (James Jr., Margaret, and Patricia), and took a slow train to the growing town of Phoenix to start a new life. He began his law enforcement career when he was hired as the Maricopa County Under Sheriff to Sheriff Lon Jordan in 1938.

He continued to be active in American Legion activities and served the American Legion in Phoenix. In 1942 and 1943, he served as the Commander of the Frank Luke/John Greenway American Legion Post #1 in Phoenix. He had served directly under John Greenway in World War I, and had met Frank Luke (and was listed as one of Luke’s witnesses to shooting down an enemy balloon) during his service in France.

Chief James Duane’s career with the Phoenix Police Department was launched in the heat of battle. On November 26, 1942, soldiers from the Army’s 364th infantry stationed at Papago Park were in Phoenix enjoying a night on the town. At that time, an offduty soldier struck a female over the head with a bottle. When an MP shot the soldier, a riot broke out (between 13th and 17th Streets, on Washington) that resulted in 3 deaths and 11 wounded by gunfire. This riot took place in the infamous part of town known as Red Light Row.

On November 30, 1942, Colonel Ross G. Hoyt, Commander of Luke Field, declared Phoenix out of bounds to Post personnel. Soon after, other commanders followed Hoyt’s lead. The riot may have been the final catalyst that resulted in the decision to declare the city out of bounds, but military leaders cited another reason. It was the growing concern for the venereal disease situation in Phoenix that had incapacitated many a soldier. The city now found itself in a position where it was losing the money the large military population was spending in town during the war years. In negotiations to lift the order, Colonel Hoyt stated, “The city will stay out of bounds until it has become untenable for prostitutes.”

Drastic action was needed and quickly taken. On December 17, 1942, a secret emergency meeting was held in the basement of the Adams Hotel. The Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce and other elected officials led it. The meeting went well into the night. There was a vote of no confidence taken on the City Manager, City Magistrate, and Chief of Police and they were quickly replaced. The new Phoenix Chief of Police to be appointed would be a highly decorated World War I veteran named Jim Duane.

On December 21, 1942, three days after the appointment of the new Chief of Police, Colonel Hoyt lifted the ban, stating that his decision was based on the fact that cases of venereal disease among his men had decreased. Chief Duane pursued a policy of “strict repression against those involved in professional prostitution.” This was actually a risky political position in a town long known for its reputation of acceptance of prostitution with the blessing from the citizens and city government alike. Nonetheless, arrests and convictions increased under his administration.

Chief Duane was appointed under City Manager Roy Heyne. When Heyne was forced out of office a month later, Chief Duane resigned from his position. He was reinstated as Chief on May 1, 1943, following a city election. He remained in the position until May 1, 1946. For this time period, this was quite an accomplishment for a department that rarely had a Chief hold a position for over a year.

Chief Duane put in many hours as Chief of Police. The war years started a growth in Phoenix that continues to this day. These were trying times for the city as well as the Police Department. Chief Duane’s son remembered that his father had to fire several detectives who were involved in prostitution activities that included rolling (robbing) soldiers. One of the more infamous incidents that occurred during Chief Duane’s administration was a sad and dark day in our history. On May 5, 1944, Phoenix Officer Starr Johnson conducted a traffic stop at 6:30 PM at 2nd Street and Jefferson. He had stopped offduty Phoenix Detective Frenchie Navarre. After an argument, Navarre shot and killed Officer Johnson. Navarre was reinstated to the Department after a jury found him innocent of murder charges.

On October 4, 1944, Starr Johnson’s partner, Officer Joe Davis, took revenge of his friend’s murder. Officer Davis shot and killed Detective Navarre in the police station at 17 South 2nd Avenue. Officer Davis then went to the top floor and took the jailer hostage. Chief Duane quickly responded to the hectic scene. He encountered Officer Davis half way on the staircase, where he was disarmed. In 1946, Chief Duane resigned as chief, when he was elected the State Department Adjutant to the American Legion. Chief Duane held this position for the remainder of his life. He passed away on January 27, 1951, after losing an extended battle with cancer. He was eulogized in Phoenix and Massachusetts newspapers. His service as the Phoenix Chief of Police was listed as one of his many accomplishments and contributions to his country.

Those who remember Chief Duane remember him with reverence, respect, and admiration. Two retired detectives Glenn Martin, #70 (hired 1943) and Lieutenant Ed Langevin, #81 (hired 1945) were personally hired by Chief Duane. They remember how challenging his position was when he spoke to them about the Department on the day they were hired. Chief Duane told them they would encounter a majority of good, dedicated officers. He also bluntly told them they would encounter a few bad seeds that had been around for a longtime. He said that if they intended to have a successful career, they would have to model themselves after the good officers. The Department was a challenging place to run in those days and is still challenging today. The leadership ability he developed in life was an asset that allowed him to leave his mark in our history. By the time Jim Duane retired as Chief of Police, he had faced many struggles and challenges, but was no stranger to leadership.

Museum Closure

The Phoenix Police Museum will be closed Friday, March 31, 2023 in observance of Cesar Chavez Day.

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Museum Temporary Closure Every Thursday Until Further Notice

Please note that the Phoenix Police Museum is closed on Thursdays. We apologize for the inconvenience.

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