After just 16 months as the first Black police chief of Jasper, Tx., Rodney Pearson has been fired—his dismissal he said was due to his race.

“I was fired over race,” Pearson told CNN, “and now I feel that me and my family are marked.”

According to Blackamericaweb.com, Pearson’s promotion was a “racial progression” for Jasper Blacks. In June of 1998, three white supremacists dragged a Black man, James Byrd, to his death in a hate crime. At the time, Pearson was the first Black patrol officer in Jasper and was the one who found Byrd’s mangled body, including his severed head, according to CNN.

In April 2011, Pearson was hired as the town’s new police chief in a 4-1 vote; the town’s four Black council members voted for him and the one White against him. Jasper is about 44 percent Black and 46 percent White, according to Blackamericaweb.com.

Pearson’s lawyer told CNN that Pearson had a “target on his back” from his first day to the day he was booted out.

Targeting the council members who approved his position, a group of all-White residents formed “Concerned Citizens,” a petition drive that accused the Black council members of misconduct and incompetence for hiring Pearson. They were removed from office in May.

“We make a positive decision for the city of Jasper, and we find ourselves recalled,” said Councilwoman Terry A. Norsworthy told CNN.

Pearson was fired by a majority white new council.

Jasper Mayor Michael Lout said that residents wanted their own selection in the slot instead of Pearson. Lout owns a local radio station, KJAS, that has targeted Pearson, and racial slurs were found in the comments on the station’s Facebook page. There is no Black radio station in Jasper according Blackamericaweb.com, and Lout, who had allegedly verbally promised the job to a police captain, said Pearson wasn’t qualified.

Pearson told CNN his credentials may have been superior to those of other candidates.

For now, the racial progress made in Jasper has been reversed. Pearson said the “town is divided” to the extent it was during the “James Byrd days.” 

 

Jessika Morgan

AFRO Staff Writer