Alex Underwood Makes History as Chester County, S.C.’s 1st Black Sheriff

Alex Underwood guesses his cell phone’s has beeped with calls and text messages at least every two seconds.

When he walks down the street, drivers honk their horns. When he walks into restaurants, he receives standing ovations.

The day after Underwood, a petition candidate and retired agent with the State Law Enforcement Divison, was declared Chester County’s first black sheriff, he autographed a father’s campaign sign. The father, with his small son at his side, told Underwood, “This is history.”

Underwood, the latest in a long-line of political black pioneers in Chester, admitted: “I hadn’t even thought about it.”

On Tuesday, Underwood captured more than 45 percent of votes, beating Democratic incumbent Sheriff Richard Smith and fellow petition candidate Robert Cauthen, a former Sheriff’s Office chief deputy.

The atmosphere in Chester following his victory has been “electrifying,” Underwood said.

“I’m speechless,” he said. “I’m humbled. It’s an amazing accomplishment. It’s just unbelievable.”

Something else Underwood found “unbelievable” was meeting then-state Sen. Strom Thurmond when Underwood was a preteen. Underwood’s father, Arthur Underwood Sr., started the county’s housing authority alongside Thurmond.

When Thurmond went to Chester for a visit – traveling in a limousine – he took the Underwoods on ride through town. That’s when Thurmond spoke words to Alex Underwood that still resonate today.

“Son, if you grow up to be half the man your daddy is, you’ll be a helluva man.”

All these years later, Chester’s first black sheriff has plans to live up to that counsel by helping as many people as he can…

Read more: Charlotte Observer


Back to top