Jenkins Logan knew one thing when he was 23 — he definitely wasn't going to become the first black police officer in Opp, Alabama.
That was in 1969.
Last Thursday, he celebrated his 50th anniversary — with the Opp Alabama Police Department. Yes, he's still working at a job he never wanted. And Capt. Logan isn’t anything like what you’d expect of a commanding officer. He speaks softly and slowly. Jesus is his Captain.
“Do you know who wrote the first five books of the Bible?” he quietly asked me several years ago.
I laughed. From his tone, I could tell he knew the answer but wasn’t sure I did. Maybe I was bluffing.
“Moses,” I said.
“How’d you know that?” He’d been surprised to discover that the prophet had written so much Scripture.
“Seminary,” I said. “I have an edge.”
Logan, as everyone calls him, also has an edge—he met God at age four or five.
“One night there was a lightning storm,” he said, “and I asked Daddy how you could make it stop.”
“Pray to God,” his father had said.
“How do you do that, Daddy?”
“Just talk to him.”
“I did and the storm stopped immediately.” Logan’s eyes shined as he looked at me. “That’s not something you forget!”
God kept revealing himself until Logan realized God had a purpose for him. OPD Chief of Police Kevin Chance said, “He’s an extraordinary person—easy to talk to, and he listens carefully.”
Logan uses those gifts to help people.
“Take domestics,” Logan said. “Couples arguing and fighting. They have kids and need to know that when they break the family, they break the child.”
But it’s dangerous work. Some time ago, after several officers were killed during traffic stops, I studied Logan with a heavy heart. “When will they get you?”
He grinned. “Not me.”
Logan is gentle, but he means business with felony stops. With his hand on his gun and his door open and protecting him from potential gunfire, he climbs from his cruiser. Logan then instructs the driver to step out and away from his vehicle with his hands in sight.
“I make sure he knows any false move could be deadly,” he said. “I tell him to turn around and step backwards toward me. I’m always reminding him to keep those hands where I can see them. When I get him where I want him, I tell him to get on his knees and then to lay face down. That’s when I cuff him.”
It’s smart, and it made me happy. Had he learned that procedure at the police academy?
“There wasn’t any formal training when I was starting out,” he said.
Remember, he was hired on May 30, 1969, 50 years ago. Logan could have retired twice, but he has no interest in quitting.
“A lot of people retire and regret it,” he said.
How did he end up in a job he didn't want? In 1969, Mayor Ned Moore was willing to add a black man to OPD, and Logan was chosen.
“No, no, no!” Logan had said, even though he had been the one to suggest the need for a black officer after witnessing city officers mistreating a black man.
But the mayor insisted on a candidate with a clean record. Logan had joined the Army out of high school. He’d been stationed from Hawaii to Okinawa to Thailand and had never been in trouble.
“Daddy took us to church when we were growing up,” he said. In fact, that church still stands on Church Street in Opp.
One retired lawyer remembers that Logan may have been the first black officer in Covington County. Why did Logan change his mind?
“I didn’t. They pressured me,” he said. “I agreed to do it until they found someone else.”
Fifty years later, Logan can safely say that God was in it.
Logan will tell you of Moses and David. “They didn’t want any part of God’s plan either.”
That’s true. God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, and Moses said, “Who am I?” David was anointed as King of Israel at least a decade before he seized his destiny. (Exodus 3:1-11; 1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 5:3)
“You have to stay with him,” the captain said. “That’s your power.”
Now and then in a quiet place, Logan will pull his cruiser over, open the door, and get down on one knee to pray. Jesus is Captain Logan’s Captain.
The Rev. R. A. Mathews is an attorney, faith columnist, and the author of “Reaching to God.” She can be reached at letters@RAMathews.com. Copyright © 2019 R. A. Mathews.