Ellison W. Ensor, former Baltimore County chief of police, dies

Ellison W. Ensor rose from patrolman to become chief of the Baltimore County Police Department.
Ellison W. Ensor rose from patrolman to become chief of the Baltimore County Police Department.

Ellison W. Ensor, who rose from patrolman to become chief of the Baltimore County Police Department, died of respiratory failure Friday at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

The longtime resident of the Phoenix area of Baltimore County was 98.


"Bill had the leadership qualities that enhanced the department and caused others to emulate what he was doing," said former Baltimore County Police Chief Cornelius J. Behan, who headed the department for 17 years before retiring in 1993.

"He was the right man in the department's history to lead," said Mr. Behan. "As I built my cadre, they kept referring to Bill Ensor with admiration and love for the way he operated the department."

"He was a great police officer and a good family man," said Michael D. Gambrill, who joined the police force in 1961 and served as chief from 1993 to 1996. "He was well-respected by the troops. He was a fine man, and I loved working for him."

"He was certainly the cornerstone of the department. He started the Major Case Squad, which later became the Homicide Unit — which in addition to homicides, investigated robberies and rapes, and it was countywide," said Mr. Gambrill, who was drafted early on as a member of the squad.

The son of Carvel Linwood Ensor, a stationary boiler engineer at what is now Towson University, and Blanche Matilda Spalding, a homemaker, Ellison William Ensor was born in Pittsburgh.

At an early age he moved with his family to Phoenix in Baltimore County, then to Towson, where he graduated in 1936 from Towson High School.

After high school, he worked as a Baltimore Transit Co. streetcar motorman on the No. 8 line before taking a job as a milkman for Cloverland Dairy.

Mr. Ensor met his future wife, Mildred "Mickey" Cox, who also attended Towson High, one day while he was out driving.


"She was waiting for the bus to go home to Carney and I stopped and asked if she wanted a ride," Mr. Ensor told the Towson Times in 2014. She accepted, and the two were married July 29, 1939, at St. Ursula Roman Catholic Church in Parkville.

The couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in 2014.

Mr. Ensor joined the Baltimore County Police Department in 1941 and was assigned to the Essex Station on Eastern Avenue, where he walked a beat. At the time he began his career, there were 100 police officers working 12-hour shifts to cover 610 square miles of Baltimore County. In those days, most of the county was rural.

Officers had two days off each month. Guns were provided by the county, but the officers were required to purchase all of their other equipment.

When he was assigned to Towson, one of his jobs was working as a crossing guard at the Kelso Home for Girls in Towson.

"The Kelso Home was an orphanage, and one of his jobs was helping them across the street," said a daughter, Patricia A. Ensor of Wake Forest, N.C.


"He befriended a girl — when my parents didn't have a nickel — to make sure she had gloves for the winter and school supplies. They invited her for dinners and holiday dinners," said Ms. Ensor. "She's now in her early 80s, and living in Florida. They kept in touch with one another, and she said my father changed her life."

Mr. Ensor was promoted to sergeant in 1947, to lieutenant in 1952 and to chief inspector in 1961. He then was named captain of the Eastern District.

He nearly left the force during World War II to take a higher-paying job in a war plant.

"His wife talked him out of quitting," said Mr. Behan.

"I'll never forget it. I have a wonderful wife and she never interfered with anything I wanted to do, except once," Mr. Ensor told The Evening Sun in 1967 when he was named chief by County Executive Dale Anderson.

"She knew I liked police work, I guess. I was too surprised by her opposition to go into the matter any more. It was her decision and I abided by it, and I never regretted it," he said. "Personally, I felt it was a career with great possibilities for advancement, and an opportunity to serve my fellow man. Two, I had a desire to help people."

"Bill was part of the old guard," said Tom Toporovich, former secretary to the Baltimore County Council and a Dundalk neighborhood activist. "Earlier county executives used to interfere in the department, but Dale Anderson gave him full rein to make promotions and other decisions.

"All [Anderson] wanted Bill to do was keep crime down, and that's what he did," said Mr. Gambrill. "He didn't start modernizing the department technologically, but he kept it moving and following modern policing policies."

"I was hired by him as an 18-year-old cadet. He was the epitome of a gentleman and a great man to work for," said Dennis M. "Denny" Robinson, who retired with the rank of colonel after serving the department for 32 years.

One of Mr. Robinson's duties as a young cadet was driving Mr. Ensor.

"We were driving to a chief's meeting and he said, 'My dream is to see officers someday make $10,000 a year.' In those days, we were making $5,600 a year, so that really dates us," recalled Mr. Robinson with a laugh. "I never heard a foul word come out of his mouth and, as a cadet, I loved the fact that he treated me as an equal. He was a very kind man."

Other accomplishments during his tenure as chief included the promotion of women to officer rank while raising the professional level within the department.

He was recognized for his work by Gov. Marvin Mandel and received letters of appreciation from President Richard M. Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew.

He attended the FBI National Academy in 1965 and served on multiple statewide committees, including the Governor's Commission on Police Training and Commission Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.

A highly skilled marksman, Mr. Ensor won the Maryland Law Enforcement Officer state shooting championship in 1945 and in 1951.

The Ensors lived on a 6-acre tract where he enjoyed horseback riding and cultivating a large vegetable garden. He was also an accomplished woodworker. He had been a member of the Hunt Valley Golf and Country Club for 25 years, and over the years had scored multiple holes-in-one.

Mr. Ensor was a longtime communicant of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, 13305 Long Green Pike, Hydes, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Ensor is survived by a son, E. William Ensor Jr. of Phoenix, Baltimore County; three other daughters, Dianne E. Fowler of Phoenix, Vickie Ensor of Abingdon and Kathleen G. Ensor of Ocean View, Del.; a sister, Frances Ensor Merritt of Ruxton; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.