He Was a Georgia Law-Enforcement Pioneer; Officers, Family and Friends Remember a Savannah Policeman

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Byline: MEGAN MATTEUCCI

SAVANNAH, Ga. - Sgt. William Malone spent his days marching up and down East Broad Street dodging racial epithets, rainstorms and sometimes bullets.

On Monday, more than 200 people recounted the steps of the former Savannah Police Department officer as they said goodbye to the man who had broken a longstanding racial barrier 60 years earlier.

"Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Don't tell them about all the awards I got. Tell them I was a drum major for justice,' " the Rev. William Price told the group inside St. James A.M.E. Church on East Broad Street. "My uncle [Malone] was a drum major for justice, a drum major for humanity."

Malone, 84, was one of the "Original Nine," the first black police officers hired in Georgia in 1947. He died May 7.

Dozens of police officers, family and friends gathered Monday to remember the sacrifices he made.

"We knew we were going to change the course of history, which we were proud to do. We set an example for the rest of the nation," said retired Sgt. John White, another of the Original Nine.

Now, black officers make up more than a third of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, police spokesman Sgt. Mike Wilson said.

Malone graduated from Beach High School and served in World War II. When he returned home and joined the police department, he and his eight colleagues became the first black officers hired in Georgia.

Although they were sworn in as police officers, White said, they could not arrest white suspects, could not drive police cruisers nor wear their uniforms outside the department. Even their headquarters was separate, and they had to drink at separate water fountains.

They were assigned only to walk East and West Broad streets.

"Even though Savannah was one of the first cities in the South to hire black officers, the ranks remained segregated for about 20 more years. …