Jenkins Logan knew one thing when he was 23; he definitely wasn't going to become the first black policeman in his small Alabama town. That was in 1969.
Last Thursday, he celebrated his 50th anniversary on that police force, 82 miles south of where Rosa Parks sat down to take her stand.
Yes, Captain Logan is still working a job he never wanted, and his presence is nothing like what you’d expect for a commanding officer—he speaks softly and slowly. God is his Captain.
“Do you know who wrote the first five books of the Bible?” he quietly asked me 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?” He’d been surprised that the prophet had written so much Scripture.
“Seminary,” I said. “That's my edge.”
Logan, as everyone calls him, also has an edge—he met God at age four.
“One night there was a lightning storm,” he said. “I asked Daddy how to 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. “Not something you forget!”
God kept revealing Himself until Logan realized God had a purpose for him. His chief of police said, “He’s extraordinary—easy to talk to, and he listens carefully.”
Logan uses those gifts to help others.
“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 up.
“I make sure he knows any false move could be deadly,” he said. “I tell him to turn around and step backwards toward me. When I get him where I want him, I tell him to get on his knees and then to lie face down. That’s when I cuff him.”
It’s smart, and it made me happy. Had he learned that at the police academy?
“There wasn’t formal training back then,” he said.
Remember, he was hired in 1969. Logan could have retired twice, but he's not quitting.
“People retire and regret it,” he said.
How did he end up in a job he didn't want? He was chosen.
“No, no, no!” Logan had said, even though he'd been the one to suggest the need for a black officer after witnessing city police 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 in Hawaii, Okinawa, and Thailand without incident.
“Daddy took us to church,” he said. In fact, that church still stands on Church Street.
One retired lawyer remembers that Logan may have been the first black officer in the county. Why did Logan change his mind?
“I didn’t. They pressured me,” he said. “I agreed only until they found someone else.”
Fifty years later, Logan can safely say that God was in it.
He’ll 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 King of Israel long 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. God is Captain Logan’s Captain.
Copyright © 2019 R.A. Mathews. 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