Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 14 years, 9 months, 3 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 18th District - Stock Yards
District of Incident (Present Day): 009 - Deering
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 31
Date of Birth: 20 Dec 1914
Date of Appointment: 13 Sep 1941
Date of Incident: 16 Jun 1956
End of Watch: 16 Jun 1956
Date of Interment: 19 Jun 1956
Cemetery: Holy Sepulchre Cemetery - Alsip, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 4, Lot 42, Block 4, Section 8
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-3
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 6
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 1
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 33-E: 2
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Detective John Joseph Blyth, Jr., Star #1395, aged 31 years, was a 14 year, 9 month, 3 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 18th District – Stock Yards.
On June 16, 1956, Deacon Charles Leggett, age 49, and Head Usher Thomas J. Sylvester, age 23, were painting the interior of the New Mount Baptist Church located at 223 West 47th Street and heard Loretta Green, age 16, scream in the alley. Jessie Welch, alias James Dukes, age 31 of 4358 South Shields Avenue, Green’s boyfriend, was beating her. The men investigated and were shot by Welch. Three people were wounded in the shooting affray; Deacon Leggett was shot twice in the right leg, Head Usher Sylvester was shot once in the chest and Ross was believed shot when Detective Blyth exchanged shots with Welch. Leggett and Sylvester were taken to Provident Hospital.
While talking with a fireman in the 4600 block of South Wentworth Avenue Detective Blyth and his partner, Detective Daniel Rolewicz, heard shots fired. Directing their attention to 47th and Wells Street they observed Welch dart out of a group of people. They proceeded there and found that the shots had come from an alley just north of 4715 South Wells Street. Officer Rolewicz called for Welch to halt at the mouth of the shadowy alley. Instead of obeying, Welch turned, fired several shots and then fled on foot. Detective Blyth was struck in the chest and as he collapsed to the ground was able to return fire striking Welch. Detective Blyth was transported to Evangelical Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Jessie Welch was captured a few minutes later by Patrolmen Ray Leddin and Lawrence Commer, who followed a trail of blood from wounds that may have been inflicted by the bullets Detective Blyth fired as he went down. Shot three times in the chest, he was found hiding under a station wagon parked in the lot at 4802 South Wentworth Avenue with a .32 caliber pistol in his hand. On June 27, Welch pleaded not guilty before Chief justice Cornelius J. Harrington in Criminal Court. Jessie Welch, pleaded guilty to two charges of Assault to Murder in the wounding of two other men just prior to the fatal shooting of Detective Blyth. On August 15, 1956, James Dukes was found guilty and sentenced to death. On August 24, 1962, he was executed at Cook County Jail, becoming the last man to be executed there. Blyth’s partner was present and witnessed the execution. Loretta Green was also arrested and charged with carrying Welch’s gun prior to the argument which led to Detective Blyth’s death. Green was committed to the custody of the Illinois Youth Commission by Judge Harold P. O’Connell.
Detective Blyth was waked at McPhee Funeral Home located at 7133 South Western Avenue. His funeral mass was held at St. Adrian’s Church located at 7000 South Fairfield Avenue. He was laid to rest on June 19, 1956 in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 6001 West 111th Street, Alsip, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 4, Lot 42, Block 4, Section 8.
Detective John Joseph Blyth, II, born December 20, 1914, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on September 13, 1939. He earned 1 Credible Mention during his career. Detective Blyth was attached to the Scotland Yard special investigations unit until he was transferred to the Stock Yards station several years ago. He often spent his off duty hours chasing down criminals and in 1951 he was commended for his part in solving 229 crimes. His death ended 87 years of service by three generations of his family on the Chicago Police Department. His father, retired at the time years, was a policeman for 30 years and Blyth wore his star, No. 1395, which has since been retired. Detective Blyth’s maternal grandfather was also a policeman for 40 years.
Detective Blyth was a member of the Chicago Patrolmen’s Club, Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association, Holy Name Society, Illinois Police Association and the St. Jude Police League. He was survived by his wife, Margaret (nee Martin), age 40; children: John Joseph, III, age 18; Mary Ann, age 17; Norrine, age 11 and William, age 15; parents: John Joseph, Sr. (CPD) and Mary B. (nee O’Mahoney) and siblings: Donald J., Robert P., Rosemary J., Virginia M. and the late Elleen. His father served on the Chicago Police Department for 30 years. Upon his father’s retirement, Officer Blyth, took his father’s star number #1395 transferring from Star #4663.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department homicide record, File #5406.
On December 31, 1957, Detective Blyth’s star was retired by Commissioner Timothy J. O’Connor and enshrined in the Superintendent’s Honored Star Case, located in the 4th floor Office of the Superintendent at Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. The Honored Star Case was later relocated to the lobby of Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. In 2000, Chicago Police Headquarters moved to a new facility at 3510 South Michigan Avenue, Detective Blyth’s Star was re-encased in the new headquarters building lobby.
In June 1962, the police department honored Officer Blyth’s memory by naming the brand new M-4 police boat in the Department’s Marine Unit after him.