The community of Birmingham, Alabama, is mourning the loss of Leroy Stover, the city’s first Black police officer, who passed away on November 2 at the age of 90. According to the Birmingham Police Department, Stover’s historic legacy and dedicated service to the community paved the way for future generations.
Stover’s distinguished career began on March 30, 1966, when he joined the Birmingham P.D. at the age of 33. Over the course of his 32 years of service, he rose through the ranks to become a deputy chief, retiring in 1998.
The Birmingham Police Department expressed their condolences in a statement on X: “Today, our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of former Deputy Chief Leroy Stover. As the first Black officer to integrate the Birmingham force, his legacy and work at the Birmingham Police Department paved a way for others to follow in his footsteps. We offer our full condolences to the family and know that he will forever be in our hearts and minds.”
Stover’s impact extended far beyond his law enforcement career.
In 2021, he was quoted as saying: “You live right, you treat people right, right will follow you,” a testament to his commitment to justice and community.
Before joining the police force, Stover, a native of Dallas County, was the valedictorian of his graduating class at Shiloh High School in Selma in 1952. He served in the U.S. Army, first as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne and later with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team during the last year of the Korean War in 1952–53.
Upon leaving the military, Stover worked as a truck driver for a Birmingham construction company before embarking on his historic journey as a police officer.
He faced hostility and racial prejudice on his first day on the streets, entering the police station to find a room of about 70 white officers who had made derogatory remarks.
“I had one side of the room all to myself,” Stover recalled.
Nevertheless, Stover persevered and continued to rise through the ranks of the Birmingham Police Department.
In 1992, when Johnnie Johnson became police chief, he named Stover as deputy chief. Johnson had been hired by the department one day later than Stover, as the city’s second Black police officer.
In 2013, Stover’s oldest niece, Bessie Stover Powell, contributed to his legacy by publishing a biography of Stover. Titled Leroy Stover, Birmingham, Alabama’s First Black Policeman: An Inspirational Story, the book narrates Stover’s journey from rejection and segregation to acceptance, unity, respect and inspiration.
One of the highlights of Stover’s legacy was the dedication of Birmingham’s new West Precinct in his honor in March 2015. It was at the West Precinct that Stover was promoted to sergeant, lieutenant and captain.
“Unbelievable. I’m speechless. Most times when a building is dedicated, the person it’s named after is already deceased. I got my flowers while I can still see them and smell them,” Stover said at the time.