On Wednesday morning, September 24, 1919 at 3:10 a.m., Mr. H. N. Bell called Seattle Police. He had been waiting for a friend at the corner of 21st Ave. and Madison St. when he saw two men get into a violent argument. One of them drew a pistol and fired a shot. The two subjects ran away when Bell yelled at them.
SPD Motorcycle Patrol Officers Edwin Wilson, 29, F. R. Gladwin, Claud Rix, and R.R. Moulton were dispatched from Police Headquarters at 400 Yesler. The officers conducted a search for the two subjects, but did not find them. Shortly before 3:30 a.m., the officers headed back to Police Headquarters via Madison St. They were required to return to Headquarters because there were no two-way radios in police cars or motorcycles. Telephone calls were received at Headquarters or precincts, and officers were dispatched from those facilities. Just west of 13th Ave., Officer Wilson’s motorcycle hit an unknown object in the road. The motorcycle skidded along the curb for about thirty feet and then hit a telephone pole. Officer Wilson was thrown into the middle of Madison St. between the street car tracks. Officer Bell administered first aid to Wilson while Officer Gladwin telephoned for an ambulance. Officer Rix raced to Headquarters and returned with a police car. Officer Wilson was rushed to Providence Hospital. He died less than one hour later. Officer Edwin Wilson was the first SPD Motorcycle Officer to be killed in the line of duty. He was unmarried, and was survived by his parents and siblings including his brother, Rollo Wilson, a Seattle police officer. Rollo retired for service in 1942. Edwin’s funeral procession on 11-28-1919 included sixteen police motorcycles. Officer Edwin Wilson is buried at Washelli Cemetery.
Edwin Wilson was born in Seattle, Columbia City, on November 11, 1889 to Mark and Margaret Wilson. He was raised in Rainier Valley, and attended Columbia School. He worked for several years at a Seattle hotel as a bellboy and clerk. He was commissioned as a Seattle police officer in December 1913. After the start of WW I, Wilson enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the Navy Intelligence Department, and served in the Pacific before being transferred to Europe where he saw service in France and Italy. He was honorably discharged in the summer of 1919, and returned to his duties as a Seattle police officer. At the time of his death, he lived at 5223 35th Ave. S. Although Edwin was unmarried, two granddaughters of his brother, Rollo Wilson, live in Mount Vernon, WA.
In January 1998, Chief of Police Norm Stamper nominated Officer Edwin Wilson and forty-eight other Seattle police officers, killed between 1881 and 1976, for the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. Nine of those nominations, including Officer Wilson’s, were rejected. Two of those nine officers have since been re-nominated and awarded the Medal of Honor. The remaining seven were all SPD motorcycle officers. Officer Edwin Wilson was re-nominated for the Medal of Honor in 2012 and 2013. The Chief of Police would not endorse the nominations and forward them to the Medal of Honor Committee.