Detective James Riley Ratliff (1922-1969) was born in Louisville to McKinley and Annis (Neighbors) Ratliff. He was one of four sons. According to the 1930 Census, the family was living at 712 E. Hill Street in the Merriwether Neighborhood. McKinley maintained a long career with the railroad. James’s World War II draft card shows he was working for Chess & Wymond, a cooperage on Avery Street. A stamp across the top of the card reads “5/27/1946 Discharged from Navy.” James married Zoa Lee Ashby, daughter of Frank and Annie (Young) Ashby. Together the couple had a foster son, William G. Anderson, and they lived at 1105 S. 32nd Street in Parkland. In 1946, James joined the Louisville Police Department where he served for 23 years.
According to the US Officer Down Memorials, on December 30, 1969 “Detective James Ratliff and Patrolman Donald Gaskin were shot and killed when they responded to a robbery call at a local grocery store. Two suspects were inside the store when Gaskin arrived at the scene. The suspect ordered the store clerk to open the door, and as Gaskin entered, he was shot by the suspect. Ratliff and his partner arrived just as Gaskin was shot. As the detectives ran for cover, another shot was fired and struck Ratliff. During an ensuing shootout, two other officers and the two suspects were wounded. Gaskin succumbed to his wounds before reaching the hospital. Ratliff succumbed to his injuries later during surgery.” At James’s funeral, Chief C.J. Hyde said, “We knew him as a dedicated and loyal public servant that you could trust. He was a proud but humble man, with an understanding attitude in his associations with fellow officers and general public…We knew him as an officer that could look in the eyes of the most wicked criminal and see something beyond crime.” James was buried in Section 16, Row 15, Grave 7 of Eastern Cemetery. He shares a headstone with Zoa, but in 1999, she was buried in Green Meadows Memorial Cemetery. James’s photo is from Officer Down. Funeral photo is from “Courier-Journal” January 4, 1970.
Thank you for protecting our city and making the ultimate sacrifice.