Alabama’s First Black State Trooper – Tyrone Anderson – Paved a Path for Diversity

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By Kenneth Mullinax/ASU

The Alabama State Troopers were once known for their brutality and callous disregard of the Constitutional rights afforded the citizens of the United States, especially the rights of African-Americans. The civil rights movement of the 1960s was marked by numerous cases of violent and sometimes deadly interventions by Alabama troopers such as James Bonard Fowler who shot and killed a young voting rights activist named Jimmie Lee Jackson, sparking the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. 

In March of 1972, just seven years after the troopers’ violent attacks against marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge gained national attention, the nation again took notice when Montgomery native Tyrone Anderson – an African-American and Alabama State University alumnus (class of 1969) –  and two other men of color were hired by the Alabama Department of Public Safety as State Troopers, working in the midst of a police force that numbered more than 950 White men. 

“Needless to say, when myself and Elbert Dawson of Tuskegee and Leon Hampton of Birmingham entered the Trooper Academy that was then near Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum as the first-ever Black State Troopers, we turned quite a few heads and shook up what had traditionally been the vehicle that enforced in Alabama racial segregation, Jim Crowe laws and the Ku Klux Klan’s ideal of a White dominated statewide status-quo,” said Anderson, a soft-spoken, yet no-nonsense, 75 year-old. 

“Very few of the nearly 1,000 rank-and-file White troopers ever said a harsh word to me – but I must say that very few of them ever had anything at all to say to me or Dawson or Hampton (both of whom are now deceased); however, most all of the officers in charge of us were fair and cordial in a distant sort of way, which might have been influenced in part because we were only present and hired because of a Federal Court order forcing the integration of what had once been the personal domain of segregationist Governor George Corley Wallace, who in 1972, was still advising his state attorneys to fight the hiring of Black troopers as prescribed by the Federal District Court.”  

The agency was under an order from Federal District Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. to hire one black for each white until the state police force was one‐quarter black. 

In a story published by The New York Times on March 30, 1972 – the date of Anderson’s hiring – Col. Walter L. Allen, head of the troopers, downplayed the order of Montgomery-based Judge Johnson by saying the reason Blacks were hired was that “the state had a ‘critical’ shortage of State Troopers.” 

Judge Johnson’s order was “the very first to specify precise hiring ratios to achieve a racial balance in a state agency,” stated the New York Times article.

Johnson’s desegregation order for the law enforcement agency was appealed by Governor Wallace, who lost his action after a review by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

When hired, Anderson, who graduated from Alabama State with a degree in Fine Arts, had been teaching high school in Covington County, Ala. At first, he speculated he would hold the law enforcement job for “maybe two years”; however, the two years morphed into a 30-year career with the State Troopers, which eventually saw him promoted to the rank of Captain and his becoming the state’s top criminal investigator and the commander of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (A.B.I.).Anderson’s stellar career also included holding the record for the largest amount of drugs seized at one time in Alabama – a feat that occurred at the Montgomery Airport in the 1980s.

News media contact: Kenneth Mullinax, 334-229-4104.

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