The first chief of the all-paid fire department in St. Louis, Sexton was born in Virginia on March 29, 1828 and moved to St. Louis with his family in 1857. His father and older brothers were carpenters and building contractors and prior to joining the StLFD he worked for John Sexton and Sons. With contacts and friends in both the fire department and the St. Louis construction industry, Sexton was a natural candidate for membership in the Empire Club and was described as “one of the most prominent early ball players…(although he) never took much stock in his playing abilities…”
Sexton’s election as president of the club in 1864 came during one of the most trying periods of his life. In 1862, he was removed for his position as chief of the StLFD by General John Schofield and confined to the Gratiot Street Prison under suspicion of having Southern sympathies. One of almost five thousand civilians held at the prison during the war, it is unknown how long Sexton was held or when he was released, although it’s a safe assumption that he was released prior to his election as president of the Empire Club. It certainly says something about the club that a formerly imprisoned, suspected Southern sympathizer would be elected as president while the Civil War was still ongoing and the fate of the Union in doubt.
In May of 1869, Sexton was reappointed as chief of the StLFD and held that position until 1885 “when he resigned to become collector of internal revenue.” From 1870 to 1873, he also served again as president of the Empire Club, giving him the longest consecutive tenure as president in the history of the club. In 1881, Sexton was one of the original investors in the Sportsman’s Park and Club Association and helped to revitalize professional baseball in St. Louis.
“Always alert, sober, clearheaded, quick in perception, (and) powerful in action…,” Sexton was a popular chief of the StLFD and “(no) man…had so large a following among all classes…” He died in St. Louis on December 31, 1893.
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