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Heroes of Law Enforcement Honored By Calvary Baptist Church During Black History Month
2/13/2013 1:44:03 PM

left to right: Fred Stroble, Capt. Dale Middleton and Sgt. Louis Staggers

By Barney Blakeney


Retired lawman Fred Stroble is somewhat of a local historian. He’s chronicled local Black police officers from Reconstruction through modern times. Feb. 10, along with all those who came before him and many who currently serve as law enforcement officers, Stroble was among those honored as Black Charleston policemen.


The Trustee Ministry of Calvary Baptist Church in downtown Charleston during its 24th annual Black History Month observance honored Blacks in the city’s police department. Eleven current and former Charleston police officers were in attendance at the afternoon program that featured the Charleston Southern Winter Quarter Gospel Choir and guest speaker William ‘Bill’ Saunders.


They were Mrs. Lauretta Vandross, Capt. Christine Middleton,  Stroble, Ligure Ellington, Robert Horsley, J.J. Hudson, Bob Green, Dep. Chief Jerome Taylor, Capt. Dale Middleton, Capt. George Brisbane and Sgt. Louis Staggers.


Today it’s not uncommon to see Black police officers. Black officers with departments in Charleston, North Charleston, Charleston County Sheriff Department, the Mount Pleasant Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies owe their existence, in large part, to nine often forgotten Black policemen hired by the Charleston Police Department in the early 1950s.


Since then, many Black law enforcement officers have reached the height of success in their profession. Some have numbered among the highest ranking officers in their departments including former Charleston Police Chief Reuben Greenberg and South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division Chief Reggie Lloyd.


Other high ranking Black officers have included Charleston Deputy Chief Jerome Taylor, North Charleston Deputy Chief Reggie Burgess, retired North Charleston Deputy Chief Arthur Smalls and retired Charleston Maj. Ronald Hamilton.


Their success was ushered in the beginning in 1950 when Charleston police Chief William F. Kelly, under the direction of then Mayor William Morrison, hired Walter Burke, Cambridge Jenkins, Benjamin Taylor and Christopher Ward. The following year Kelly hired five other Black officers - Ernest Deveaux, George Gathers (aka Porgy George), Montkue Henghen, James Mikell and Joseph Wong.


They were followed in 1959 with the hiring of other Black officers who included Paul Green, Allen Johnson, Reuben Mack, Harry B. Smith, Charlie Temple and Herbert Washington. In 1961, Melvin Simmons joined the department. A year later, Simmons encouraged Stroble to join. Today 75 Blacks, including 21 Black women, serve as officers in the department.


Those Black officers distinguished themselves as policemen in Charleston, but they weren’t the first local Black policemen to do so.


After the Civil War, Reconstruction ushered in an era of Black policemen. Beginning in 1868, numerous Blacks served the Charleston Police Department until 1895 when staunch segregationist Benjamin “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman restructured the state’s constitution to strip Blacks of their political power and established segregation as the law of the land. Charleston fired its last five Black police officers in 1895.


However, one Black local policeman remained in law enforcement. He was Edmund Jenkins of Mount Pleasant.


Jenkins was born a slave in McClellanville in 1845 and moved to Mount Pleasant about 1890 when he became a policeman in the town. Over the years, Jenkins served as an officer, assistant police chief and town marshal. He retired in 1927 highly respected among both Black and white residents of the town.


At his death in 1930, Jenkin’s obituary was published in the Charleston News and Courier in which he was referred to as “Mr. Jenkins”, an honor bestowed upon few Blacks of the day.


In 1960, Mount Pleasant’s first public housing complex was erected and named in honor of Jenkins. Also a monument to Jenkins has been erected in Ocean View Cemetery in Mount Pleasant.


Saunders said Black policemen like other Black professionals have to look back at what brought them to see what keeps them. “We need a new cadre of Black policemen to take us further,” he said. And  like their predecessors, they will be challenged from both outside and within their communities.



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