County's first black sheriff named Trailblazer

COVINGTON — When Ezell Brown was 7 years old, he watched the arrest of an elderly woman. Even at that young age, he was revolted at the conduct of the arresting officers.

"I felt that the force the officers were using was unnecessary and not warranted, and from that day forward I was unhappy with them. I could not look up to them as being my heroes. From that day forward, I said that I wanted to be an officer of the law, someone that everyone could look up to and be proud," he said.

For Brown, the fulfillment of that dream has been occurring over the last 36 years and culminated when he was elected the first black sheriff of Newton County in 2008. On Sunday, he was recognized for this accomplishment at the Martin Luther King Jr.

Celebration held at Newton High School, where he received the Trailblazer Award, given for community service and outstanding accomplishment.

"It was an honor that I accepted with deep gratitude and great humility," Brown said. "I would be remiss if I failed to not think of those who received the award in the past and similar awards, those around the world and even here in Newton County who perhaps have been beaten and jailed and some who have even lost their lives in the pursuit of justice."

Ezell Brown Jr. presented his father with the award.

He talked of his father growing up in the Civil Rights era, a time when young black men "were warned about the brutality of those charged with keeping order and constantly reminded to stay out of trouble."

Brown also developed a strong work ethic, which he put to use building a construction business. Later, intent on fulfilling his lifetime goal, he became a police officer with the Covington Police Department.

"He entered that world at a time when there were few officers of color and their hands were sometimes tied as much as those handcuffed," his son said.

Brown eventually got a job at the Newton County Sheriff's Office, and by the mid-'90s, had a new dream — to become sheriff.

"In 1996, he defied the odds and became the Democratic nominee for sheriff. But, as is often the case, the dream was not yet to become a reality. So, as is his nature, this trailblazer used this opportunity to continue laying the bricks necessary to make that childhood dream a reality. He exhibited those character-building traits of patience and perseverance," his son said.

Brown's dream was finally realized in 2008, but "I feel it's just the beginning of my labors," he said.

"I've always had a passion to serve and a passion to be a helping hand to everyone, putting myself last. I've always been the type of person that color never mattered. I've always tried to right the wrong in any given situation," he said.