West Covina police on Monday named its remodeled traffic office in honor of the department’s first officer killed in the line of duty.
Frederik Ham, 31, was the second officer hired by the city in 1938 and worked as a motor officer, according to department spokesman Cpl. Rudy Lopez.
On Dec. 9, 1940, Lopez said Ham tried to stop a speeding car on Holt-Garvey Avenue at 5:45 p.m. The area would later become the 10 Freeway.
During the chase, Ham’s motorcycle collided with another vehicle at Francisquito Avenue. The 31-year-old officer died a half-hour later at a hospital. Lopez said the speeding driver was never caught.
The police department decided to name the remodeled office after Ham because he was first West Covina officer killed in the line of duty and was also the city’s first motor officer, according to Lopez.
West Covina police officers also wore a black band over their badge Saturday and Sunday to remember Ham. Lopez said a street sign with his name was placed where the accident happened.
Ham, who went by the nickname “Iron Man,” was famous for his riding skills. He was inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000.
He was an early off-road racer but became best known as a record-breaking long-distance rider of the 1930s, according to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum website. The museum is located at Pickerington, Ohio.
“In 1936, Ham briefly revived interest in the almost-forgotten Three-Flag Record by riding from Canada to Mexico in just over 28 hours. A year later, Ham’s 24-hour solo record of 1,825 miles set on the Muroc Dry Lake (now part of Edwards Air Force Base) in 1937 spurred sales of Harley-Davidson’s newly designed EL-model, better known as the Knucklehead, and helped the company break out of the Depression sales slump,” according to the museum.
“The engine that set the record was put on display at Graves’ Harley shop before it was shipped to Harley-Davidson. Ham became known nationwide for this record,” the museum’s website says.
Born in the Netherlands, Ham lived in South Africa and moved to the United States in 1930. He joined the Pasadena Motorcycle Club.
Lopez said Ham was also a teacher at Covina Presbyterian Church, a member of the Masonic Lodge, a leader of the Sea Scouts, and a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America. Ham was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena.