Nearly four decades in University Park have earned police Capt. Leon Holman a string of promotions and a mind full of memories.
But save for some family pictures, his office could be anyone’s. The city’s longest-tenured employee has bare walls.
His home tells a different story.
“I have newspaper clippings all over this house,” says Susan, the captain’s wife of nearly 36 years. “They’re on the walls, everywhere — of everything he’s ever done, really.”
And he’s done plenty, from cracking burglaries and homicides to sexual assaults and kidnapping cases. These days, Holman’s job is administrative, and involves overseeing support services such as crime prevention, animal control, warrants, and evidence.
Back in 1975, when he arrived at UP after several years with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, he and the other patrol officers worked eight-hour shifts — not the 12-hour ones they do now — and the tight-knit group met at bars and empty softball fields when they clocked out. The whole cops-and-doughnuts thing was a truism, and their only computer was a clunky, shared machine that connected to a central database in Austin. The cars weren’t so flashy, bike patrol did not yet exist, and the first woman didn’t enter the force until the early ’80s.
In time, Holman moved on from patrol duty to become a detective in UP’s criminal investigations unit. He was promoted to sergeant in 1980, then lieutenant, and finally captain in 1987.
Of course, it’s life itself that happens between the milestones.
Susan Holman met her match on a blind date “set up by another cop,” she says, still giddy to talk about it. The University Park native was a schoolteacher then, 27 years old, and sheepish to take the last-minute offer on a Saturday night.
That was November of 1976. Before long, an exasperated Susan was regularly pulled over on her early-morning drives to work. Acquaintances rubber-necked on Preston Road while her suitor tried to make dinner plans.
When Valentine’s Day of 1977 rolled around, the young patrol cop brought a box of yellow roses for his sweetheart to open in front of her sixth-grade class.
Beneath those long stems was an engagement ring.
“My classroom went nuts,” remembers Susan, who had — for the record — just been teaching the kids about the homonyms “wring” and “ring,” and pointing to her own bare left hand.
The couple eventually settled in UP, and had daughters Danni, Katy, and Krissi. Holman coached his girls’ soccer teams, and one young athlete who didn’t have a father of her own started calling him “Big Daddy.” It’s still his family nickname.
Danni graduated from Highland Park High School in 1999. Katy followed in 2000. But the family was devastated when Krissi died of cancer in 2004, just before she would have walked the stage. Friends and neighbors turned out in droves, Susan remembers, “and the police department was so kind to us.”
The loss, Holman says, was “the worst thing that’s ever happened to us. It’s the worst thing that could happen to anyone, really.”
As for the potentially dangerous nature of her husband’s own work, says Susan, “for some reason I never really worried about him. I guess God was on our side.”
He loves the job because “it’s different every day,” Holman said. “Nothing remains the same. Just when you think today’s going to be a slow day just like yesterday, something happens.”
But he’s still a creature of habit.
Every morning, Holman leaves for work at 7:48 a.m. on the nose. He’s home for lunch at 1 p.m. And every single evening, he’s back again at exactly 5:13 p.m. Really.
His colleagues think he’ll never retire, he says with a chuckle. But one of these days, “I just might surprise ’em.”
He and Susan do have a 1-year-old grandson, Tyler, to dote on. And Holman is an avid golfer who got a hole-in-one just the other week, so he’s not without hobbies.
Granted, says longtime employee Lt. Keith Burks, “You can’t just go play golf every day. The question is, what is he going to do?”