MEMPHIS, Tenn. —History was made Thursday night when Shelby County voters elected an African-American sheriff for the first time.
Floyd Bonner has been serving as chief deputy with more than 30 years of experience.
He beat out conservative opponent Dale Lane.
As the election night went on, the singing, dancing and chanting grew stronger at Bonner’s watch party in East Memphis.
The win means much more to Bonner than a new badge.
“This is the reason I’m the man I am today,” he said as he pointed to his father Floyd Bonner Sr.
Bonner Sr. was one of the first African-American police officers in Memphis.
Because of the color of his skin, he wasn’t allowed inside the precinct.
“I could remember him telling us stories that he couldn’t even arrest a white person without another white supervisor giving him permission to do it,” said Bonner, Jr.
He said it brings a lot of emotions, being elected the first African American sheriff in the same county decades later.
Bonner Jr. said along with having his 84-year-old father by his side for this moment, he knew his mom was smiling down on him too.
“My mom passed away 20 years ago and as a matter of fact, today’s her birthday.”
Current Sheriff Bill Oldham endorsed Bonner for the position, even though he identifies as a Republican and Bonner a Democrat.
“He’s a man of integrity, he’s a good family man and Christian man,” said Sheriff Oldham.
Bonner focused his campaign on his 30-plus years of experience and commitment to the county.
He brought in a diverse group of supporters.
“We weren’t looking for black, white, Republican or Democrat. We were looking for people that would support this campaign.”
Floyd Bonner says staffing is going to be one of the first things he looks at when he starts his role as sheriff next month.