Leo J. 
Tompkins Sr.


LEO JOSEPH TOMPKINS SR. was born in the state of New York on March 17, 1902.

Leo Tompkins served in the United States Navy during World War I. He was stationed at the Mare Island Navy Yard in San Francisco, California when the Census was taken in January of 1920, having then achieved the rank of Seaman 2nd Class.

Leo Tompkins appears to have come to Camden in the late 1920s. In 2017 Elsie Nichols, the granddaughter of his mother-in-law, told her nephew Richard Nichols the following story of how Leo Tompkins came to Camden. 

Leo Sr. is from New York... while serving in World War I he met my great-grandfather, Richard V. Nichols (Elsie's father), and they became great friends. She told me that Leo was quite alarmed by the amount of diseases in New York at that time and was convinced by my great-grandfather to come to Camden. She didn't give many more specifics, but she was so excited to tell me that. When Leo got here, he was introduced to Richard's sister, Cecilia, who became his wife.

Leo Tomokins is not listed in the 1924 or 1927 Camden City Directories. He was appointed to the Camden Fire Department on April 15, 1928 and reported for duty with Engine Company 2 the following day.

Leo Tompkins married Cecilia Nichols around the same time he was appointed to the Fire Department. The 1929 City Directory shows that he was working for the Fire Department and living at 1769 Norris Street. The 1930 Census shows Leo and Cecilia Tompkins, their children Mary and Leo J. Tompkins Jr,, mother-in-law Mary and brother-in-law Walter Nichols living at 1769 Norris Street. Fire Department records from 1931 show that Leo Tompkins had moved to 322 Erie Street in North Camden, not far from Engine Company 4, where he had been transferred to in August of 1930. On July 1, 1933 Leo Tompkins was assigned to Ladder Company 1, where he remained until November of 1942.  

At some point during the 1930s Leo and Cecilia Tompkins moved to 1282 South Merrimac Road in Camden's Fairview neighborhood. Leo Tompkins would live out his days at this address.

With America going to war after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, many veterans were recalled to service. Leo J. Tompkins enlisted in the United States Navy on November 24, 1942 at Philadelphia and on December 26 reported for duty as Boatswain's Mate 1st Class aboard the USS PC-1121. In March of 1943 he was promoted to Chief Boatswain's Mate. 

Fire Department records indicate that he had returned from military service by December of 1944. On December 5 he was assigned to Engine Company 3 at 1813 Broadway

The 1947 City Directory shows that Leo Tomkins and his family were still living at the South Merrimac Road address. Daughter Mary was working as a clerk at the W.L. Hurley & Co. department store on Broadway.

Leo J. Tompkins was promoted to Captain on June 14, 1951. On June 16 he was assigned to Ladder Company 2 at 619 Kaighn Avenue. He was assigned to the Fire Marshall's office on February 17, 1956 and served their until April 10, 1961 when he was appointed Drillmaster at the Department's training facility. On September 1, 1962 he reported for a new task, in Radio Communications with the Electrical Bureau, where he served until retiring on pension January 1, 1964.

A Camden resident to the last, Leo Joseph Tompkins Sr. passed away on July 1, 1976. His wife joined him in July of 1984. His son, Leo J. Tompkins Jr., had a long career as a Camden police officer.   

Camden Courier-Post - April 4, 1928


Thomas Nicholas - John H. Lennox - Rollo Jones - William Harring
Clarence Madden
- George B. Wade - William W. Patterson - George Hunt
David Ellis
- George Saunders - Eli Hunt - William Van Pfefferle
William H. Toy - Leo Tomkins - Horace T. Molan - Laurence Boulton
George W. Garner
- Felix E. Bendzyn - Harry H. Hess - Charles Jones
Thomas F. Gibbons - Byron Davis - John S. Anderson
Ladder Company 1 - Engine Company 3
Engine Company 6
- Engine Company 7 - Engine Company 9
 27th Street - Arch Street - Broadway Clinton Street
Federal Street
-  Ferry Avenue
York Street

Camden Courier-Post * July 25, 1962

9 Firemen Graduate In City Test

Graduation exercises for nine of the city's newest firemen were held Tuesday in headquarters at 3rd and Arch Streets under direction of Public Safety Director Bedell and Fire Chief Edward R. MacDowell.

The graduates and their assignments are Joseph Anderson, Canterbury Apartments, No. 1 Ladder; Prescott Johnson, 1238 Kenwood Avenue, No. 8 Engine; Philip Maycott, 1023 North 32nd Street, No. 9 Engine; George Getty, Canterbury Apartments, No. 2 Engine; Ronald Bowers, 617 Clinton Street, No. 2 Ladder; William Young, 3167 Westfield Avenue, No. 2 Engine Company; Wayne Kraft, 1052 N. 35th Street, No. 3 Ladder; Raymond Eldridge, 7 North Dudley Street, No. 7 Engine; and Donald Goehringer, 30 North 24th Street, No. 7 Engine Company.

They will receive a starting salary of $4,800. Chief MacDowell said this brings the department to 170 hosemen and to 224 total personnel in the department. 

All nine were graduated after receiving three weeks of training at the fire school under the direction of Captain Leo J. Tompkins.

Their training also included two days at the Navy Fire School at the Philadelphia Naval Base.