Biography of William F. O’Neil

Having become connected with the Providence Police Department some forty years ago, Chief O’Neil has continued to serve with it since then. His ability, honesty and faithfulness have gained him various promotions to positions of ever-increasing importance and responsibility, and since 1922 he has been superintendent and chief of police of Providence. In this office he has proven himself a very capable, efficient, and conscientious public official, gaining for himself to the fullest possible extent the liking, respect and confidence of his fellow-citizens. Under his administration the Police Department of Rhode Island’s capital has become consistently maintained on a very high plane of efficiency, and Chief O’Neil ranks as one of the most successful and ablest police chiefs in this country.

William F. O’Neil was born in Providence, January 29, 1867, a son of the late Thomas E. and Margaret (Grant) O’Neil. His father, a native of County Cork, Ireland, was for many years engaged as head farmer for Joseph E. Cook, well known Providence resident. Chief O’Neil’s mother was a native of County Roscommon, Ireland. Educated in the public schools of his native city, Chief O’Neil, after leaving school, worked for four years in the local grocery store and then was connected for three years with the Providence Street Railway Company. On March 6, 1890, he entered the Providence Police Department as a patrolman. Eleven years later, March 8, 1901, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and in the following year, March 9, 1902, he became a lieutenant. After serving in that capacity for some eleven years, he was made a captain on August 7, 1913, chief inspector on May 9, 1915, and deputy superintendent of police on February 3, 1918. Since December 3, 1922, he has been chief and superintendent of the Providence Police Department. During all these years Chief O’Neil has had an admirable record as an able and honest police officer, a fact which is indicated by his steady rise. He is a member of the International Police Chiefs’ Association; the New England Police Chiefs’ Association, of which he is a director; and the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, of which he was elected the first president. He is also a member of Providence Lodge, No. 14, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. In politics he is independent, and his religious affiliation is with St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church of Providence.

Chief O’Neil married, on June 7, 1899, Elizabeth Donovan, a native of Sandwich, Massachusetts, now deceased.

Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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