Bodeker's father, a German immigrant, was a veteran of the Mexican-American War where he befriended Jefferson Davis. During the Civil War, Davis appointed him a "Detective of the Confederate States" involved in espionage behind enemy lines.
Bodeker moved to Birmingham in 1886 and rose through the ranks of the Birmingham Police Department, serving as sergeant and warden of the Birmingham City Jail before being promoted to detective under Chief Thomas McDonald. He was instrumental in bringing about the arrests of members of the Miller-Duncan gang.
Bodeker ran for chief in the 1907 election, narrowly losing to William Wier who claimed that liquor and sporting interests were aligned against him in the race. After Wier's retirement, Bodeker won the office handily in the 1910 municipal election, defeating Thomas Shirley. On November 18 of that year Bodeker corresponded with Booker T. Washington regarding race, crime and prohibition:
...it would be impossible for me to give you the exact figures of crimes committed by the colored people, however, I wish to say that the Prohibition Law as I see it has not benefited the white people or the negroes, as Prohibition is a farce wherever it has been tried. I do not see any difference relative to crimes committed by either race. Respectfully, Geo. H. Bodeker, Chief of Police.
His correspondence seems somewhat at odds with his public support for Mayor A. O. Lane's calls for regulation of saloons and his statement that "the negro vagrants cause more trouble in a city than all other criminal classes combined".
In 1911 Bodeker submitted a proposed bill to the Alabama Legislature that would remove the office of police chief from political vagaries by making it a permanent position, subject only to a court finding of bad behavior or inefficiency. As Chief, Bodeker gave rising judicial star Hugo Black a gold watch on his October 22, 1912 retirement from the Birmingham Police Court.
In 1914, Bodeker ran for the office of Jefferson County Sheriff. He was removed from office at the start of the campaign by Commissioner George Ward amid charges that he had accepted bribes from bordellos and gambling houses. Instead he founded Bodeker's National Detective Agency with offices in the Brown-Marx Building and branches in Charlotte, North Carolina; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida; Montgomery and Mobile.
|Chief of Birmingham Police Department|
- "George H. Bodecker, Candidate for Chief of Police" (February 16, 1907) Birmingham News
- Fell, Charles (1908) "Chief Bodeker's father has eventful career as Confederate Detective." Birmingham News
- Suitts, Steve (2005) Hugo Black of Alabama: How His Roots and Early Career Shaped the Great Champion of the Constitution Montgomery:NewSouth Books. ISBN 1588381447