Donald S. Leonard Papers

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Donald S. Leonard Papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Donald S. Leonard Papers collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Michigan State Police officer, 1923-1941, Michigan Civil Defense Director during World War II, State Police Commissioner, 1947-1951, Republican candidate for governor, 1954, served on Michigan Liquor Commissioner and as Detroit Recorders Court judge. Papers include extensive documentation of his service as Director of Civil Defense and State Police Commissioner and his political activities.

Donald S. Leonard was one of the nation's most respected law enforcement officers during the 1940s and 1950s. During a long and varied career which spanned fifty years of service, Leonard was party to the professionalization of the State Police and the development within the state of modern police methods. His particular interests in law enforcement included police communications, the legal aspect of police work, and civil defense procedures.

Leonard was both police officer and public servant. He worked as Michigan Civil Defense Director during World War II, was appointed State Police Commissioner in 1947, and Detroit Police Commissioner in 1952. During the 1950s, Leonard was active in Republican Party politics in Michigan, running unsuccessfully three times for governor: in 1952, 1954, and 1956. Retiring from police work and party politics, Leonard continued his public service into the 1960s and 1970s first as Liquor Control Commission chairman, later as Detroit Recorder's Court Judge.

Donald S. Leonard was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1903. Following graduation from Northern High School, he attended Wayne University where he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1925 and a bachelor of laws degree in 1931. It was while attending college in 1923 that Leonard first joined the Michigan State Police as a trooper, partially as a means of financing his way through school. At Wayne, Leonard was elected president of his class for four consecutive years and lobbied successfully to change the school from a two year to a four year college. In addition, Leonard did graduate work at the University of Michigan Law School during the period of 1933-1934.

After his graduation, Leonard remained with the state police. He rose to the rank of captain in 1930; and in 1934, he became district commander of the Second District, which had responsibility for the metropolitan Detroit area. In 1945, Leonard was promoted to superintendent of the Uniform Division; and in 1946, he was appointed acting commissioner. In 1947, Governor Kim Sigler, who had been elected on a platform of "Cleaning up" state government, turned to Leonard to improve the administration and efficiency of the state police. After nearly twenty-five years of service with the state police, Leonard was appointed state police commissioner, succeeding long-time incumbent, Oscar Olander.

During his career with the state police, Leonard was active in many police organization, including the Southeastern Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), all of which he served as president at various times. Leonard also served as a member of the Permanent Legislative Committee, a lobbying organization for Michigan police chiefs, sheriffs, circuit judges, and prosecuting attorneys. As an early advocate of the use of radio in police work, Leonard was member of the Associated Police Communications Officers and the IACP's radio and communications committees.

During World War II, Leonard took on numerous positions in the field of civil defense. In the summer of 1941, when he was member of an American civil defense mission, he toured England observing the effects of German bombing and examining the organization of English civil defense. After his return to the United States, he became a special consultant to Fiorello LaGuardia, U.S. Director of Civil Defense. In 1942, Leonard was appointed director of the Civilian Protection Division, Michigan Council of Defense, and State Commander of U.S. Citizens' Defense Corps of Michigan. In 1943, he was promoted to administrator of the Michigan Council of Defense following the resignation of Harold A. Furlong. After a reorganization, Leonard became director of civil defense, a post he held until 1951, when he was succeeded by Lester J. Maitland. During the period of 1943-1948, Leonard also served as state fuel administrator and chairman of the Governor's Fuel Committee.

In 1952, Leonard retired from the Michigan State Police to run for governor. He was succeeded as State Police Commissioner by Joseph A. Childs. In the 1952 Republican primary, Leonard ran against Fred M. Alger and William C. Vandenberg, but was defeated by Alger.

After the election, Leonard was appointed Detroit Police Commissioner by Mayor Albert E. Cobo, a position he held until 1954 when he resigned to run for governor once again. In 1954, Leonard defeated three other candidates in the Republican primary, but was defeated by Governor G. Mennen Williams in the general election.

In 1956, Leonard again ran for governor. This time he was defeated in the republican primary by Albert E. Cobo. After his retirement from the Detroit Police Department, Leonard entered private legal practice and did consulting work for various police agencies. In 1959 he ran for Detroit Recorder's Court judge but was defeated. He was appointed to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission by Governor George Romney in 1963, and served as chairman until 1966, when he resigned and was elected to Detroit Recorder's Court.

In addition to his other activities, Leonard served on numerous committees, including the Michigan Bar Association's Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, the Detroit Bar Association's Committee on Civil Rights, and the Detroit Board of Education's Committee on Equal Educational Opportunities. Leonard also taught law course at the State Police Recruit School and Metropolitan Police Academy of Michigan.

Leonard died in 1976.

Please note:

Copyright has not been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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