Black History Month, 2014 Black History in Columbus County, NC

The following speech was written and delivered by Clarence Spaulding during the Black History Celebration at Union Baptist Church, Lake Waccamaw, NC, on Sunday morning, February 23, 2014.

“According to an article in the “Columbus County News Reporter” November 26, 1981, “Ralph Spaulding Recalls 18 Years in Law Enforcement”…

I am talking about a man that some of you may know. This man is Ralph Spaulding, who was born July 15, 1915, in the Welches Creek Community and died August 15, 1987. Ralph was the oldest of 11 children. After graduating from High School, he attended Hampton Institute, Hampton, VA, and later attended Fayetteville State Teachers College. Years later, he returned to Columbus County to farm and to begin his family.

On October 19, 1938, Ralph married Sarah B. George. Together they had 8 children who today, are scattered out from Arizona to Maryland.

It was on July 1, 1963, that Ralph was hired by the Whiteville Police Dept. He held that position for 8 years, four months and 9 days. Getting into Law Enforcement was not easy for a Black person in 1963. When he was accepted as a member of the Whiteville Police Force, he became the first Black police officer in Columbus County. Ralph use to say, “I’ve seen a lot of Black officers come and go, but I’m proud to be the first Black hired by the department.”

Ralph was not issued a car to make his rounds; he had to walk from downtown Whiteville to the Court House and back (two miles) in the heat, rain, sleet and snow. He did this while his White co-workers passed by him and just honked their horns and kept on driving. Ralph was not allowed to arrest a White person. He would have to call and have a White officer come and make the arrest.

Ralph was primarily assigned to the Black neighborhoods and the Black night spots such as: Punk Daniels, the Black and Tan, the Sherwood and the Alley, which was managed and controlled by Missie Clark, a large Black lady who tipped the scales at around 300 pounds , and she was as ‘mean as a rattle snake’.

Ralph talked about some of his scuffles while on duty with the Police Dept. Because of his bulky size, 6 feet one inch and ranging from 280 to 300 pounds, a person would think twice before attempting to tackle him. When he was called out to a trouble spot, just as he entered the building, the word would circulate that “Ralph Spaulding is in the House!” The trouble would then come to a complete stop. Ralph was later transferred from Whiteville to Chadbourn Police Department, where he would later retire as Asst. Chief of Police. Some of his disappointments were expressed in the fact that the town of Chadbourn chose not to give him anything such as a certificate, letter or a plaque for his service. Usually, when a Police Officer retires, he is given his badge, his gun, handcuffs, and a certificate of appreciation. “I didn’t get any of these things, and I was kinda looking forward to keeping them over the years,” Ralph said. It’s bad when you work hard for a town for 10 years, and then retire and have absolutely nothing to show for your service! Ralph was recognized years later, after his family put pressure on North Carolina’s governor. And later, he was recognized by North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Jimmy Green. Gov. Green gave Ralph a signed letter congratulating him for 18 years of service. Gov. Green also enclosed an ID card which indicated that Ralph was appointed an Honorary Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina. Meanwhile, as years passed, Ralph’s health began to fail, and he had to be assisted in a wheelchair at his retirement party.

Ralph Spaulding was a trailblazer for all Black Law Enforcement Officers in Columbus County. Blacks are now hired by Whiteville City Police Dept., Sheriff’s Dept. and the Highway Patrol.

On January 6, 2014, Sheriff Louis L. Hatcher took the oath of office and became the first appointed Black Sheriff in Columbus County. This happened all because of Ralph Spaulding’s sacrifices!

I Know this to be true because the late Ralph Spaulding was my oldest brother, and today, his daughter, Sarah E. Carmichial, is here as a witness to these details I have stated.”

Submitted by Clarence Spaulding

February 23, 2014