Dempsey Rollins opened the Rollins Service Garage in 1934 at East 40th Street and Central Avenue. Pop Harris was the garage manager. Rollins was born in Atlanta in 1903. At age 15 he got a job as delivering prescriptions by motorcycle for a local druggist. His motorcycle skill led to a stint as a motorcycle racer. Rollins migrated to Cleveland in 1919, where he first worked as a driver for a local grocer until A&P bought it out and shunned Black workers. Rollins opened his own tire and battery station at Cedar and East 36th in the early 1930s before buying out a garage several blocks away that became Rollins Service Garage. In the Depression years Rollins became the city’s first Black mechanic to build and race cars on local tracks. After giving up racing to devote his full attention to the garage, Rollins also served as a motorcycle escort for funeral processions and funeral processions in the local Black community. In 1946, while serving as an auxiliary patrolman for the Carter Theatre in downtown Cleveland, Dempsey Rollins was shot to death by an 18-year-old who had just been thrown out of the theater for failing to pay admission.
Additional information coming soon.
- “Rollins Service Garage.” Call & Post. August 18, 1934.
- “Local Businessman Uses Originality and Succeeds.” Call & Post. July 20, 1940.
- “18-Yr.-Old Youth Slays Policeman in Theatre Brawl.” Call & Post. March 30, 1946.
Green Book Details
Rollins Service Garage appears in the Green Book from 1938 to 1947 at E. 40th & Central under the category Garages.