Hollums was the son of Zachary and Lula Ann Wood Hollums of Cherokee County. They moved to Birmingham where Zachary operated a saloon and later joined the Birmingham Police Department. Luther attended Birmingham City Schools and graduated from Central High School in 1911.
Hollums worked in the mines for a while before enlisting with the Marine Corps. He served in California and the Pacific until World War I, during which he was assigned to a U. S. Navy torpedo boat destroyer as a commissary steward. After the war her returned to Birmingham and joined his father on the force. He married the former Farris McCray in June 1922 and had two children, Mildred and Zachline.
Hollums advanced quickly to chief of detectives and was appointed Chief of Police in January 1934. He was charged with leading the city's efforts to defuse "radical" demonstrations by labor and reform advocates during the tumultuous late 1930s.
As chief, it also fell to Hollums to step into the role of film censor in January 1937, after the Birmingham City Commission abolished the independent "chief inspector" position held by Harriett Adams in the wake of her rejecting the Mae West film Go West Young Man. Hollums assumed the duty alone without a screening board, considering himself suited because he was an "average" movie fan, neither too conservative nor too radical. As he told the Birmingham Post: "I have seen several Mae West pictures and have failed to discover anything wrong with them. 'Evil-minded' persons can always interpret things the wrong way."
In 1945 Hollums wrote a letter to journalist Hugh DuBose endorsing Chester Mullins for Commissioner of Public Safety in the 1945 Birmingham municipal election, and expressing great frustration with the interference of incumbent Commissioner Bull Connor, whom he called a "Mad Monster." In particular, he found Connor's habit of loudly swearing in the presence of ladies working in the department unbearable.
|Chief of Birmingham Police Department
T. A. Riley
- Citizens Historical Association (December 26, 1936) "Ernest Luther Hollums, Chief of Police, Birmingham, Alabama." Biographical Sketches of Citizens of Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama Indexed and compiled by Birmingham Public Library, 1965
- "Movie Council Declares War on Commission" (January 27, 1937) Birmingham Post - accessed May 27, 2008 at Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- "Movie Council Will 'Carry On'" (February 9, 1937) Birmingham Post - accessed May 27, 2008 at Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- DuBose, Hugh (April 27, 1945) "Bull Connor A Mad Man And A Thorn In Cooper Green's Side, Say Chief Hollums And Mullins." Alabama Radio News, Vol. 5, No. 7
- Luther Hollums at Findagrave.com