SDPD 09/08/1952 - 02/09/1958
1927 - 03/29/2004
San Diego Union-Tribune, The (CA) - April 19, 2004

Deceased Name: James J. Washington Jr., 77 won hero's medal as cop 

It didn't take long for James J. Washington Jr. to discover that law enforcement could be a lot tougher than professional boxing.

A former middleweight who had learned to box at age 9, Mr. Washington joined the San Diego Police Department in 1952. Four years later, he saved the life of a truck driver who was engulfed by flames in a gasoline fire.

Mr. Washington, who suffered burns on both hands and developed a chronic throat problem, was rewarded for his bravery with a medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission and a resolution by the state Legislature.

Several years later, as a state narcotics agent, he survived another crisis when three men jumped him during a drug bust. "I got chopped up pretty good with a meat cleaver," he told the San Diego Tribune in 1982. 

Mr. Washington, who later founded the Washington Patrol Service to provide security for government agencies, died March 29 at his Poway home.  He was 77.

The cause of death was liver cancer, said his wife, Annette.

In 1982, with his Washington Patrol Service security firm in high gear, Mr. Washington returned to his boxing roots by opening a gym he called The Fight Factory on his Imperial Avenue property.

Born and raised in San Diego, Mr. Washington began taking boxing lessons under Doc Streeter at the old San Diego Coliseum at 15th and E streets.

At 16, inspired by fellow San Diegan Archie Moore, he began boxing professionally.

He left boxing to join the Army in the late 1940s. Later, he and a buddy, future homicide detective Johnnie Williams, joined the San Diego Police Department together.

As a patrolman in March 1956, Mr. Washington arrived in a patrol car at the scene of a collision between a concrete-mixing truck and a coffee truck.  The fuel tanks of both vehicles burst into flames.

Leslie D. Graves, the driver of the coffee truck, tried to free himself but his foot was trapped between the clutch pedal and a displaced floor board.

With flames soaring 6 to 8 feet, Mr. Washington stepped onto the running board of the coffee truck.  He dislodged Graves' foot from his shoe and dragged him to a nearby lawn.

Graves, who sustained severe burns, recovered during a three-month hospital stay.  The driver of the other truck died in the fire.

Mr. Washington left the SDPD in 1958 to become an agent for the California State Bureau of Narcotics, a predecessor of the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

In 1964, he became a licensed private investigator.  A decade later, he founded Washington Patrol Service, which secured contracts over the years with the Naval Ocean Systems Center in Point Loma and military installations in Los Angeles, El Centro and the Marshall Islands.

He retired in 1990 after developing symptoms of Parkinson's disease, said daughter Jeanie Washington.

"What I remember most about him was his charisma and elegance," she said.  "He had a walk like Cary Grant, and he could mesmerize you with his charm."

Survivors include his wife, Annette; daughters, Jeanie Washington of San Diego, Donna Washington of Las Vegas, Lily Washington of San Diego and Kathy Washington of Arizona; and four grandchildren.
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