Retired Lieutenant John White sits on his porch in his Savannah home.
Caption
Retired Lieutenant John White sits on his porch in his Savannah home.

The first African-American police officer in Georgia was sworn in 69 years ago. A total of nine black police officers joined the Savannah Police Department on May 3, 1947. They became known, collectively, as the “Original Nine.” Retired Lieutenant John White was the first to take the oath and is the only surviving member. Producer Linda Chen spent an afternoon with White as he looked back on that landmark moment of his storied career in law enforcement. 

"I got tired of being cursed, being pushed, but my papa said, 'Stick there, don't quit because you are changing the course of history,'" retired Lieutenant John White on the struggles of being the state's first African-American police officer.

Savannah Police Chief James Rodgers recruited the first black police officers in 1946. But his health failed within a year, and he requested the officers to be the pallbearers at his funeral. White recalled that day and how they were only allowed to carry the casket to the church doors but not inside because of segregation. 

The black police officers were assigned to walk beats in black neighborhoods in the early years. White recalled a time when he and a fellow officer left their beat to stop a dangerous altercation and what happened afterwards. 

White served nearly four decades in the Savannah Police Department before retiring in 1984. During his tenure, he met a young, aspiring politician named Jimmy Carter. 

Producer Linda Chen spent an afternoon with White as he looked back on his storied career in law enforcement.