David J. Purtell

ASQDE President - 1970-1972

  David J. Purtell  

David J. Purtell was the 11th president of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners.

Mr. Purtell joined the Chicago Police Department in 1941.  His career with the the department was interrupted by military service during World War II.  After the military, he returned to the department and began his career in forensic document examination in 1947.  The Chicago police did not have its own document section so Mr. Purtell received his training from Herbert J. Walter, a nationally recognized questioned document examiner and a charter member of the ASQDE.  He was a quick study and managed to complete not only his training but earn a baccalaureate degree in mathematics and chemistry from Northwestern University in 1949.

He rose quickly through the ranks of the Chicago Police Department being promoted first to captain and later to lab director in 1968.  He retired from the police force in 1974 to take over Linton Godown’s busy practice in downtown Chicago.

In 1959, Mr. Purtell attended his first meeting of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners.   In 1961, he, along with James V. P. Conway and Alwyn Cole, was invited into membership of the ASQDE.  They were the first three government examiners invited to join the organization.  He was an active member of the Society serving on several committees before his election to president. He authored more than 30 papers that dealt with a wide variety of subjects including handwriting, typewriting, rubber stamps, writing instruments, training issues and other topics.  These papers were either presented at forensic conferences, published by recognized forensic journals or both.

Mr. Purtell regularly lectured at courses offered by Northwestern University, the University of Illinois, the University of Indiana, and St. Joseph's College.  He was always keenly interested in raising people’s level of awareness concerning his profession.  In 1998, he received the Northwestern University Alumni Merit Award that is given to alumni who have distinguished themselves by outstanding professional and personal achievements.

David Purtell was a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners.  He was instrumental in establishing the Questioned Documents Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).  In 1981, he received the AAFS Questioned Documents Section Award.   In 1994, he became one of the few AAFS Fellows to be named a Distinguished Fellow and one of only four questioned document examiners to ever receive this honor. In 2006, the ASQDE honored his accomplishments and contributions to the profession by presenting him with the Albert S. Osborn Award of Excellence. In 2014, David Purtell passed away the month before his 100th birthday.

Derived from "The Significant Contributions of David J. Purtell to the Field of Forensic Document Examination," Journal of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, Vol. 8, No. 2 (2005) by Maureen Owens and "Albert S. Osborn Award of Excellence 2006 Honoree: David J. Purtell," The Society News, March 2007, by Dan Purdy.