The historic badge belonging to the first known law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in the City of Ocala is now on display at the Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology.
The Ocala Police Department agreed to loan the badge of Ocala Town Marshal Burrell Dawkins to the museum to commemorate Black History Month.
On March 1, 1881, Ocala Town Marshal Burrell Dawkins was fatally shot while attempting to arrest a man in the downtown square. The 38-year-old African American was the first known officer to be killed in the line of duty in the city’s history.
Dawkins was first elected as Town Marshal in 1869 at the age of 26. The town marshal’s duties included arresting anyone who was drunk in public, arresting those who used profane or obscene language in a boisterous manner, and maintaining the streetlamps, among other responsibilities.
In 1873, Dawkins was shot when he tried to remove a man who rode a horse into the lobby of the Ocala Hotel. Dawkins survived and continued to serve as town marshal until his death in 1881.
After Dawkins’ death, the city council passed a resolution that stated, “Whereas it has pleased Almighty God, the power of the universe, to take from our midst Marshal Burrell Dawkins while performing the duties of his office resolved that although we bow to the decree of Providence, we feel we have lost in him a faithful and upright officer. Resolve that we tender our condolences to the family of the deceased for the irreparable loss they have sustained.”
In a social media post, the Ocala Police Department stated, “This badge is one of a kind and has immense historical significance for both the police department and the Ocala community. We are honored and excited to share this historical badge with a local museum and commemorate Black History Month in such a meaningful way.”
The Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology is located at 307 SE 26th Terrace in Ocala.