The Toledo Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 70th birthday this past year and what many Toledoans probably don’t know is that the seeds of the symphony were sown by a a man who grew up a farmer and then later became a Toledo Policeman. That officer was Inspector Charles Roth who grew up in Defiance County in the early 1900’s the son of a farmer, but the young man was not content with the idea of following in his father’s footsteps to cultivate corn, Roth, instead, wanted to cultivate and grow the music in his heart. At a young age, Roth had already taken up the piano and trumpet and numerous other instruments. He was a natural, and he was passionate about playing the instruments with enough talent to relocate someday to Toledo where he might play in the popular Toledo Police Band.
By 1917, he achieved that goal. He moved to the big city upstream on the Maumee where he joined the Toledo Police Department as a rookie on street patrol. When he wasn’t pounding the beat, young Roth was keeping the beat, while playing in the popular Toledo Police Band. By 1923, however, Roth’s ambitions as a musician were ready to expand and so he formed the Toledo Police Civic Symphony, recruiting musicians from all walks of life throughout the Toledo area who shared his appreciation and talents for good music. Roth led this new orchestra as its conductor and musical director, while at the same time, continuing his career on the streets as a Toledo Police officer. The Toledo Civic Symphony proved to be a hit with local citizens during the 1930’s, appearing often in concert at numerous venues around the city. Roth as the conductor, reached for new horizons as a writer and composer. By 1937, he wrote the official Centennial March for Toledo’s 100th birthday. The orchestra debuted this original composition at the newly built Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre. It would not be his last composition. Over the course of his life, Roth wrote more than 70 symphonies and other pieces.
Lt. Roth did not go away in rancor. While the love of music played the melody of his life, it was always in harmony with his career, for Roth was also considered an outstanding law enforcement officer in a number of areas. Among them, his renowned abilities and skills as a marksman. Instrumental in the building of Toledo’s police shooting range at Bay View Park, Roth exhibited his skills as a champion marksman in numerous matches held at the range. His reputation was unrivaled in Toledo and most of the nation. In 1927 he won the U.S. national revolver championship held at Camp Perry.
Roth was also one of the driving forces behind the development of the Toledo Police Academy. With a strong belief that police officers needed more training, discipline and professionalism, Roth helped guided the academy’s growth for many years and literally wrote some of the earliest books and manuals that the rookies absorbed during their training. Adding to his long resume as a true renaissance man, Roth had a love for horses and wrote several books about them and their owners. he was often invited to be the announcer for local rodeos held in the Toledo area. In his spare time on Sundays, he taught Sunday school for a Methodist church. To say he was a stern man, might be an understatement, Roth to this day is remembered as a strict disciplinarian, who could be sharply candid in his remarks and commentary. Many young officers learned to fear Mr. Roth’s reputation as a tough taskmaster and his no-nonsense style. Those who knew him well, however, also knew that he could be as compassionate as he was strict, often giving musicians and officers personal loans if they didn’t have enough money to make it to payday.
Major Charles Roth by the end of his career, had helped the Toledo Police Department grow as a professional law enforcement organization over five decades and when he left this life in 1967, he left behind not just a police department, but a wonderful symphony orchestra that to this day can ascribe a part of its legacy to this most unique and dedicated Toledo Police officer.
My thanks to the Toledo Police Museum for their photos and information about Charles Roth. If you would like to visit the Museum it is on Kenwood Blvd. at Ottawa Park.
Here is a video from the Toledo Police Museum about this most talented policeman.