Recently, I got this correspondence from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (A.T.F.):

Dear Mr. Johnson:

ATF logoI currently serve with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). As an agency, ATF descended from the Bureau of Prohibition. Along with 184 other ATF agents, Prohibition Agent Major A. Hart is memorialized both at ATF’s National Headquarters Building in Washington, D.C. and on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. We are writing an article about him for ATF’s newsletter as well as for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE) 2010 conference in Baltimore, MD.

I have joined the Black Fives website and collected the pieces written about Agent Hart which I am using for the article. I am looking for more information on him, and perhaps even a quote from you to deepen our understanding of who he was. With your help, I would also like to include a photograph of him; unfortunately, there is no photograph of him in his service file. Please contact us at your earliest convenience either by phone or email. Thanks in advance.

I’ve obtained a draft version of the A.T.F.’s soon-to-be-published article, and here below is its first paragraph, which refers to Major A. Hart’s pioneering efforts as the founder of the New York All Stars basketball team:

Prohibition Agent Major Hart was sworn into law enforcement in Washington, DC on November 9, 1923. He made $2,000 per year enforcing the Volstead Act (The Volstead Act granted enforcement powers to agents to administer and enforce the National Prohibition Act.) He died in the line of duty on July 16, 1927 while detailed to a special investigation in Rochester, New York. At the time of his death, Agent Hart was a rising prohibition era agent, with legendary stories of his investigations printed in the various newspapers. This was not the first time that Major Hart attracted such attention. Few know of his All–Star status, attained long before his ferocious fight against bootleggers.

Major A. Hart

Major A. Hart.

You will be amazed by what else the article reveals.

I mention all of this because 83 years ago today, exactly one month before his death, on June 16, 1927, Major A. Hart staged one of the biggest liquor raids of the year in western New York, seizing two large stills, over 2,500 gallons of alcohol, and a complete whiskey manufacturing plant. He was single-handed and armed with nothing but a baseball bat.

I’ve always believed that this raid and his death were connected.

Now, with the help of the Department of Justice, we’re hopefully going to get to the bottom of this.

To find out more, please stay tuned!