Officer shares story in new bookPublished 10:53pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Birmingham’s first African American police officer visited a local church in his hometown, Sardis, to share his story.
Leroy Stover hosted a book signing at Good Hope Baptist Church Sunday evening for Birmingham Alabama’s First Black Policeman: An Inspirational Story: A Three Decade Perspective. Written by his oldest niece Bessie Powell, the book describes the struggles he endured, and how he was able to overcome them during his 32 years of service as at the Birmingham Police Department.
“Acceptance and cooperation were the biggest problems,” Stover, who retired as a Deputy Chief 1998, said.
Stover said he faced discrimination and prejudgment from people within the Birmingham department as well as Birmingham residents.
“On the day I was first hired, I was escorted to roll call by two superior officers from the police academy downtown to city hall,” he said. “People were aligned along the streets, because they heard they were going to hire a ‘colored’ police officer that day. As we approached city hall, we had a crowd coming toward our car making remarks, racist and otherwise.”
Stover said officers screamed racial obscenities at him as he walked into the police department.
“They started yelling and said, ‘Who’s going to work with that ‘n’ today,’” Stover said. “Some of them stared pulling their gun out of their holster, blowing smoke off the barrel saying ‘If he lasts today.’”
In the face of brutal treatment from both his fellow policeman and those he protected, he still remained loyal to his duty to serve the public.
“I wouldn’t treat them like they treated me,” he said. “I would treat them with respect and dignity.”
Stover said the fact his actions would reflect on future generations motivated him to keep going.
“Times got rough with me, but I stuck in there,” Stover said. “I realized had I failed it would have been hard for blacks coming behind me to succeed to that field of endeavor.”
“Research says that when a race or an ethnic culture knows their history, knows what accomplishments they have made that they make a great connection,” Powell said. “It’s an inspirational story.”
Stover said he hopes the book will translate to future generations.
“I would like for it to be known that regardless of your background, you can be primarily what you aspire to be, but it’s going to take dedication, hard work and commitment,” Powell said.