By Michele Vaughan, Historian, Ohio State Highway Patrol
Today, there are Academy cadets from all walks
of life. Each has a unique background and experience to bring to
the position of Trooper. However, the group of cadets at the Ohio
State Highway Patrol training grounds in 1955 was decidedly different;
only two African-American cadets trained alongside their white colleagues.
That class - the Academy’s 44th Cadet Class
- was the first class to accept African-Americans. Since then, many
individuals from minority groups have joined the Division and served
proudly in nearly all ranks.
The Black Press, the NAACP
and the Urban League worked relentlessly in the 1950s to bring about
Louis B. Sharp’s commission in 1955, thus breaking the color
barrier to the Patrol, according to information researched by Major
Peyton L. Watts, himself an African-American who serves as Commander
of the Academy today.
Sharp was the first African-American
cadet to complete the entire 13-week training period. The other
African-American cadet who joined
with Sharp was not able to withstand the intense instruction and
left after two weeks, despite Sharp’s encouragement to continue.
After receiving his commission, Sharp was escorted
to the Statehouse in Columbus, where then Governor Frank Lausche
hugged Sharp and wished him a successful career. Lausche originally
requested the Patrol screen for African-American
applicants. Sharp was, at that point, one minority member in a sea
of nearly 700 employees.
After serving at the Findlay Post
for nine months, Sharp moved on to other employment – at the
time, a better paying job to support his family. But Sharp’s
efforts laid the groundwork for others, and 10 years later, Gilbert
H. Jones signed up with the 69th Academy Cadet Class in 1965. He
received his commission the following year.
Jones’ career was history in the making.
With every promotion, he became the first African-American
to serve in that rank, including lieutenant colonel – second
in command of the Division. At the time, Lieutenant Colonel Jones
was one of only two African-American state officers in the nation
to serve in that rank. In 1997, Lieutenant Colonel Jones also became
the first African-American to retire from the Highway Patrol.
Since that time, members of minority groups continue
to increase in number within the Division. As of February 2007,
there were 232 sworn officers who count themselves as members of
a minority group, according to Ohio Department of Public Safety
Human Resources. This group accounts for about 15 percent of the
Division’s sworn personnel.
Of course, requirements to join the Division have changed since
1955. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, an Ohio resident (although,
that can be waived), have a high school diploma or G.E.D., have
a valid Ohio driver’s license and be 21-34 years old.
For more information on how you can apply
to become a Trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, please contact
your local Post, or go to the Division’s website at http://www.dps.state.oh.us/OSHPRecruit/eRecruit.aspx.