The Route 40 "strip" in Aberdeen was like a setting for a Wild West movie before Lemuel Porter Jr. took over as police chief, Porter's friends recalled.
After he died last week, Porter was remembered as a man who led efforts to clean up the area by ridding the town of prostitution and drug dealing. He was also remembered for his efforts toreform a police department plagued with charges of mismanagement.
"We had received a tremendous amount of press, all negative," said Aberdeen Commissioner Ronald Kupferman, who was mayor when Porter was appointed chief in 1981. "One day, I went down to Route 40 and counted 18 prostitutes."
Porter, 71, died Tuesday after a year-long struggle with cancer.
He resigned in 1989, ending his second career. Aberdeen had hired him out of retirement from 30 years service withthe state police. He was commander of the State Police Academy.
By the time Porter replaced his predecessor, who was fired for mismanagement, Aberdeen had a reputation as a center of X-rated entertainment and prostitution. The town's raucous image reached a peak in 1983, when Route 40 go-go club owner Susan Avery was featured in Swank magazine as "The Civic Minded Stripper." She ran unsuccessfully for Harford County Council president in 1982 as part of battle with town officials and religious leaders since opening Susan's Go-Go in 1976.
Avery and many of her dancers were later convicted on obscenity charges, and the police began publishing the names of people arrested for soliciting Route 40 prostitutes, many of whom were from Wilmington, Del.
Kupferman said Porter started new police foot patrols to keep a closer watch on the area until "it got to the point where you didn't see a hooker walking on the street."
Porter is survived by his wife, Beuleh Porter; his son, Gerald E. Porter; and a daughter, Sharon L. Carrick.