Upstate man recalls breaking down racial barriers in Greenville - FOX Carolina 21

Upstate man recalls breaking down racial barriers in Greenville law enforcement

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Jimmie Kirksey in uniform 1963 (source: Kirksey family) Jimmie Kirksey in uniform 1963 (source: Kirksey family)
Jimmie Kirksey and E. E Black (Fox Carolina/2014) Jimmie Kirksey and E. E Black (Fox Carolina/2014)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Jimmie Kirksey says he was proud when he put his Greenville police uniform on in 1963, becoming the first African-American to do so. Kirksey says he was offered the job after being honorably discharged from the Army.

"They said 'Do you want to become a police officer?' and I said 'not me, not me, I come from a bootlegging family' and they said 'We already know'" Kirksey recalled.

Kirksey says as a police officer with the city of Greenville, he was not supposed to walk his beat in white neighborhoods, arrest white people, or enter white businesses. But Kirksey says his training officer E. E. Black broke those rules in order to help make him a better officer.

"He said 'I am going to train you as a Greenville city police officer, not a black officer,'" Kirksey said. "I am so proud of him. He stood up for me. He could have been fired."

Kirksey said it was hard to leave Black and the Greenville city department but he did in 1965 to become Greenville County's first African-American deputy.

Kirksey said things at the sheriff's office were tense but that quickly changed.

"Once they figured out that I knew what I was doing everything was fine," Kirksey said.

Kirksey left law enforcement in 1972 to become a truck driver. But says he will never forget his time as a police officer or his partner and friend E. E. Black who taught him that being a good cop meant treating people of all colors with respect.

Kirksey and Black remain friends to this day.

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