BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A late Brooklyn detective and community advocate may soon have a Bed-Stuy street named in his honor.
Surgeon, who lived at 44 Rochester Avenue until his death in 2012, worked with the NYPD for 39 years and helped encourage numerous young men on his block to join the police force, according to former neighbor Carolyn Richburg.
“He was a good police officer, a very good neighbor and friend, not only to me but to everyone who lived on the block,” said Richburg, who lived next door to the detective for more than 30 years and spearheaded the co-naming initiative.
Surgeon started his career as a transit police officer in 1955, rising to the ranks of detective. He later served in the Korean War, becoming a first-class sergeant.
After becoming a criminal investigator, he became well known for his participation in civic advocacy, including his time as President of the 100 Black Men for former congressman Major Owens, along with his work as a marshal in the 1963 March on Washington.
Surgeon also represented the New York City Police Guardians, formerly known as the Cerberean Society, and stood alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he delivered his famed “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, according to congressional records.
In 2002, the detective was honored during a House of Representatives hearing for his service and activism and for “being a great role model for unselfish dedication.”
While work took him overseas and throughout the U.S., he never forgot about his neighborhood, Richburg said.
“He could have moved to Long Island or New Jersey after becoming detective, but he stayed here from beginning to end,” she told DNAinfo.
He and his family opened a deli on Rochester Avenue, making him a familiar face in the area.
“Clarence was all about helping people,” his widow Sharon Surgeon said through tears. “He coached a kids’ football team, coached track, went to kids to give them the police exam. He believed in helping others.
“His legacy was about teaching what you can do for other people, to better the community, to better yourself. Today, he would be like a black superhero.”
CB3’s vote in support of the street co-naming is advisory and the change needs approval by the City Council.