The Richmond Register

Local News

August 22, 2013

Richmond’s first black police officer proud to have served his hometown

RICHMOND — “It was a job I really put my heart into.”

Billy Warren acknowledged that the job of a Richmond police officer is dangerous, but he said he has no regrets from his six years on the force.

Warren became the first black Richmond police officer when he was hired by the city council in 1963. He was honored Thursday night at the Ashler Lodge No. 49’s 2013 Appreciation of Achievement Awards Banquet.

“I (joined the RPD) to open up jobs for other African-Americans,” The 81-year-old said Wednesday.

About a year after he was hired, the RPD hired its second black officer, Willie Joe Covington.

Warren already had served 10 years in the United States Air Force when he became a police officer. He was drafted into the armed forces in 1950, and served in several places, including Hawaii, Japan and Kwajalein Atoll.

“We were on a rock for 12 months,” Warren said of the the tiny Pacific island with a laugh.

While a member of the local police force, Warren mainly worked the overnight (graveyard) shift as a patrolman. He recalled working several homicide scenes.

“You get it all on the graveyard shift … you catch it all,” Warren said.

The former officer said although some people in the community were surprised at the city’s hiring of a black officer, the fact that he was a local man, born and raised in Madison County, helped people accept the change.

Warren is the son of Jave Warren and Ivory (Smith) Warren. He attended Grapevine Elementary School and Richmond High School prior to integration.

Warren left the RPD in 1969 and later retired after 25 years in civil service. He is married to Kathy Warren.

The city has changed a great deal since Warren was an officer, and he is pleased that more blacks have been integrated into community leadership roles. However, he would like to see more minority officers serving with the RPD.

“There should be more than there is now,” Warren said.

Although he did not make police work a career, Warren said he enjoyed the being an officer.

“If I had to do it over, I’d take the job,” Warren said.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.

 

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