Leroy Stover, Birmingham’s First Black Police Officer, Dies

Stover broke racial barriers in the Birmingham Police Department.

Birmingham's first Black police officer, Leroy Stover, passed away Thursday (Nov. 2) at the age of 90.

“Today, our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of former Deputy Chief Leroy Stover,” the Birmingham Police Department posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday (Nov. 3.) “As the first Black officer to integrate the Birmingham force, his legacy and work at the Birmingham Police Department paved a way for others to follow in his footsteps.”

Per, Stover became a member of the department on March 30, 1966. He climbed the ranks in his 32 years of service, ultimately retiring as a deputy chief in 1998.

“We offer our full condolences to the family and know that he would forever be in our hearts and mind,” reads a statement from the police department.

Valedictorian of the 1952 graduating class at Shiloh High School in Selma, Ala., Stover joined the U.S. Army and became a paratrooper, serving with the 82nd Airborne Division and then with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in the last year of the Korean War, from 1952 to 1953.

Bessie Stover Powell, Stover’s eldest niece, documented his journey in her book, "Leroy Stover, Birmingham, Alabama's First Black Policeman: An Inspirational Story." Through research and extensive interviews, Powell captured his story of facing rejection, racism, and segregation before attaining acceptance, unity and respect.

The King Institute at Stanford University noted that in 1963, the call for integrating Black police officers into the Birmingham Police Department was a central demand of the civil rights-focused Birmingham Campaign. This demand echoed the concerns of the white business community, which faced boycotts due to racial segregation issues.

Albert Boutwell, a civil rights advocate, won the mayoral race against Bull Connor, a segregationist, in 1963. Boutwell reassured civil rights leaders that he was committed to actively recruiting Black officers.

Powell’s book details Stover's first day as a police officer, when he endured racial abuse and was immediately assigned to patrol duty with a known racist partner, skipping the police academy. Unlike his colleagues, Stover had to take a bus to meet his partner's patrol car.

Though he and other Black recruits were eventually allowed into the police academy, they continued to face racial discrimination, including white officers refusing to eat with them, harmful pranks and the endangerment of their lives during undercover work when white officers disclosed their identities.

The West Precinct station, the first purpose-built police station in the city, was opened and dedicated to Stover in 2015. In 2021, the Birmingham Police Department quoted Stover, "If you live your life with integrity and treat people with respect, good things will happen."


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