Furrie L. Cousins Jr., a longtime Baltimore homicide detective credited with helping to integrate a largely white city police force in the early 1950s, died Saturday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center from complications of diabetes. The Pikesville resident was 77.
Known as "Cuz," Mr. Cousins grew up in East Baltimore and joined the force in 1952, one year shy of graduating from what is now Morgan State University.
The natural athlete and World War II Marine veteran was quick afoot - a crucial quality during a time when black officers were not allowed to drive patrol cars.
Early in his career, Mr. Cousins was offered a temporary assignment with the homicide squad. But when he solved his first case in an afternoon, the job became permanent, according to a 1974 profile of him in The Evening Sun.
"He was a great detective. He was very conscientious," said Bishop L. Robinson, who graduated from the police academy with Mr. Cousins and rose to become city police commissioner and now secretary of the state Department of Juvenile Justice. "He stayed on a case forever, until it was solved."
Mr. Robinson told yesterday of one instance when Mr. Cousins was investigating auto thefts. He had a hunch that one ring was responsible. Nobody paid much attention to his theory, Mr. Robinson said, until he broke up the group and proved he was right.
"I'll tell you right now, he was one of the best homicide detectives they had at the time," said Fred Heiderman, a former lieutenant who became good friends with Mr. Cousins after both retired from the department in the mid-1970s. "He was very good."
As more black officers joined the force, they learned to watch and emulate the man known as "Mr. Homicide."
Sgt. Roger Nolan, who joined the force in 1967, remembers picking up investigative tips from the elder detective at crime scenes. He knew the street and how to work it, Mr. Nolan said yesterday, and he had a knack for making people relax - whether they were suspects or supervisors.
"One of the things that guys like Furrie did was, they sort of paved the way," said Mr. Nolan, who is African-American and supervisor on the homicide detectives' Cold Case Squad. "It made it easier for young black officers to come on and fit into investigative roles. Those guys were already executing the jobs brilliantly."
Once, fellow officers pushed Detective Cousins into a jail cell with a Georgia man who was suspected of murder. The undercover detective, in tattered clothes, told his cellmate that he was also in for murder, according to the Evening Sun article. Before long, the Georgian confessed, and the two "cellmates" met again - at the trial.
Michael Cousins, who remembers his father's "work trip" to jail, described him as a "stick-to dad" who - despite the demands of his job - was involved in his children's activities.
"He was always there as a supportive figure. He really was proud," said Mr. Cousins, of Tom's River, N.J.
When no baseball team existed for Michael Cousins in the family's Hanlon Park neighborhood, the detective started one. He also started football and track teams, his son said. Sometimes, other parents would approach his father as he was coaching to inquire about a news-making case he had cracked. And there were times, on the way to a game, when the detective would get a call and have to miss watching his children play.
Mr. Cousins spent his retirement working as a private detective, then as a credit manager for Johnny's Used Cars on Harford Road. He also worked as a police officer from 1990 to 1998 at the state's Rosewood Center in Owings Mills.
He spent the last four years enjoying his collection of jazz recordings and watching his grandchildren at sporting events.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Liberty Seventh-day Adventist Church, 3301 Milford Mill Road.
Mr. Cousins, who was twice divorced, is also survived by his wife of 13 years, the former Eutopia Hall; another son, Robert Anthony Cousins; two daughters, Glenda Abney and B. Micheleen Turner; a stepson, Barry Hall; his stepmother, Lemie Cousins; eight sisters, Clara Ward, Mary Garnett, Rosie Cousins, Lena Kelly, Patricia McCallum, Constance Cousins, Diane Davis and Sheila Washington, all of Baltimore; and 10 grandchildren. A third son, Lawrence Cousins, died in 1991.