Lucius D. Amerson (1933- 1994)
First African American Sheriff.
Not many people have heard of Lucius D. Amerson today, but the fact remains, he was the first African American sheriff in the south since Reconstruction period. He served as sheriff in Macon County, Alabama until 1987. Lucius was born on a small farm in Clinton. Greene County and educated at Tuskegee University. He was a paratrooper in the Korean War. After serving the country, he worked for the US Postal Service in Montgomery and in Denver, Colorado. Later he gained employment with the Veterans Administration, which lead him back to Tuskegee. By now, he had a desire to become a law enforcement officer. And, despite opposition from some blacks, he enrolled to study police methods This was tough for Lucius but he remained steadfast in his journey to becoming a law enforcement officer. In 1966, he used the theme “Now Is the Time” to run for sheriff and won and took office on January 17, 1967.
Saved everything for history.
Lucius was a man of magpie-like traits. He saved everything in his possession with care; newspaper clippings, handcuffs, campaign posters, photographs. His memorabilia were donated to the National Law Enforcement by his son, Anthony E. Amerson. The museum officials were jubilant at the time of receiving this priceless collection of objects from the life of a man who was a drill sergeant and later a sheriff.
Accolades and recognition.
The Right of Voting Act was passed in 1965. This removed many hurdles for the African American people, such as (1) not being able to vote, (2) not being able to utilize the same amenities as Caucasian people and (3) not having a say in the political conditions of the country. His historical and electoral win made headlines in various national newspapers and was discussed as a hot topic in the radio channels. It was a pioneering step for all the African Americans nationwide. Lucius received congratulatory telegrams from various notable figures of his time including the Vice president Hubert H. Humphrey. He was also invited to the White House so that President Lyndon Johnson could meet him and congratulate him in person.
After that initial election, the predominant African American community living there further elected him another four times. He served as sheriff from 1966 to 1987, which were tough times for the African American people in United States both racially and politically. Why it is that Lucius is a historic figure? It is because of the fact that he had courage and determination in a time when blacks were being oppressed all over America.
His son, who is now a procurement analyst with the Department of Homeland security, claims that his father was a person who retaliated against racism in a professional fashion. “He did not get scared”, Andy recalls as he tells about the discriminative time between the races in America.
Respect from the community.
All the African American people around him loved him because of the fact that he listened and gave heed to their advices. He received respect and mutual love from everyone in the county. People knew him on a first name basis and called him for favors every now and then. He was a just and kind man and above all a wise man.
All cops have a favorite firearm and Lucius’ was the .357 Colt. He claimed that the very look and feel of the gun put fear in the criminals’ hearts. People often saw him carrying this gun instead of the government issued one. Another fact to include is that he did not have many deputies, only a handful of them and alongside them, he was known as “The face of the law in the Eastern Alabama County”. He had a big role in eliminating racism from his immediate society.
A famous case.
In 1968, a young person of the African American descent came shambled and beaten up to Lucius and complained to him that he was beaten up and terrorized by two white cops in a town that fell in the jurisdiction of Macon County. They beat him up and ordered him to dance and make improper postures while one of them shot at his feet. This was a common occurrence in the old days when people were used to racism. However, Lucius felt that this was a time to step up and see to it that racism is stopped immediately.
He, first of all, validated the authenticity of the story, and after finding out that this was true; he ordered that the two cops be arrested. The Black community was given a morale boost when they saw that someone was standing up for their rights.
Of the two Caucasian cops, a deputy arrested one and the other turned himself in. They were later, both of them, acquitted. However, this whole incident and the response of the Sheriff was something unheard of in all of America.
Another famous case involved Lucius in which he was taking a DUI individual to the police station and during the ride, the suspect opened fire and started shooting at the sheriff and his deputies. The suspect was later subdued with the help of local police. However, the suspect blamed that the sheriff and his deputies beat him up after arresting him. They were tried in court and acquitted.
Broken hip and bodily burns.
Once while chasing a stolen car, Lucius’ car crashed on the highway. The accident resulted in Lucius getting severely burned and bruised. His hip was broken also. The burns were treated immediately but the broken hip was never taken care of. He still had a broken hip untreated at the time of his death.
After remaining so long in service and providing the people of Macon County a hope against racism and underrepresentation, Lucius died in 1994 at the age of 60 from poor heath and stroke.
Great Courage: The First Black Sheriff Elected in the South Since Reconstruction by Lucius D. Amerson and A. E. Amerson