These names aren’t household categories. Perhaps they should be.

On April 3, 1948, the Atlanta Police Department hired eight African-Americans as police officers: Henry Hooks, Claude Dixon, Ernest H. Lyons, Robert McKibbens, Willard Strickland, Willie T. Elkins, Johnnie P. Jones and John Sanderson.

They were going to do what Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby had done for America and Major League Baseball the previous year. All save one were veterans of World War II. Those courageous young men ranged from 21 to 32 years of age.

Jackie Robinson opened the MLB season on April 15, 1947, at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson played football, baseball, basketball and track at UCLA.

Some 11 weeks later, Larry Doby made his first appearance as a Cleveland Indian. He lettered in baseball, basketball and football while playing at Long Island University.

Doby’s father, David, was a renowned semi-pro baseball player in South Carolina and Georgia. Unfortunately, he drowned in a fishing accident when Larry was just age 8.

Both college careers were cut short because of WWII.

Some socialists/liberals might deem Albert Benjamin “Happy” Chandler a racist. I prefer to remember him as the MLB commissioner, who along with Branch Rickey, engineered the integration of baseball.

Happy was a U.S. senator and twice governor of Kentucky. He threatened to suspend Philadelphia manager Ben Chapman for an insensitive racial tirade directed at Robinson.

Upon the Dodgers’ first trip to St. Louis, Enos Slaughter led a dugout boycott — the entire team was not taking the field if Robinson played.

Well, ole Happy was unhappy and threatened to indefinitely suspend the entire team. Slaughter continued his rant only after Red Schoendienst and Stan “The Man” had a serious council with him.

Did he see the light? Happy could be described as a man of contradictions. He was best described as a close friend of Adolph Rupp; they sometimes enjoyed a sip or two of good Kentucky whiskey.

He loved baseball and his Kentucky Wildcats. Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella said he cared for the black players when it was not a popular idea.

The 1948 population of Atlanta was just shy of 40,000. The southwest end of Atlanta was home for most of the black families.

It went without saying that few paved streets or street lamps were present. Most any type of city-service was slipshod at best. This was were the Atlanta 8 lived and worked.

They were not allowed to enter city hall or the police department. They were stationed in a musty basement of a dilapidated YMCA building.

They could not wear their uniforms to work. They were required to change clothes in the basement. Under no circumstances could they drive a squad car.

Police revolvers had to be left in the basement at the end of each shift and none were allowed to be taken home. The eight were not allowed to arrest a white person.

It was estimated that more than 25 percent of Atlanta’s police wore two uniforms. There was a blue uniform for work and a white hood and sheet for after-hours entertainment.

Rarely did a police cruiser enter into “DarkTown.” Many times, the Atlanta 8 officers, while patrolling on foot, had to leap out of the path of a police cruiser.

From the mid- to late 1940s, John “Itchy Trigger Finger” Nash, an Atlanta policeman, shot and killed 13 blacks in the line of duty. He was awarded a commendation from the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

Once again, Atlanta has made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Then-Police Officer Garrett Rolfe will pay the consequences for firing his pistol. Who will pay the consequences for firing Wendy’s?

Rayshard Brooks did not deserve to die. I fear our nation is coming apart. If I say all white lives matter, am I a racist? If I say all black lives matter, am I a racist? Read II Cor. 5:15.

 

DAN PATTERSON, who’s retired from the Paris Parks and Recreation Department, grew up near the state line and now lives in Paris. He can be reached by email at jdanpat@yahoo.com.

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