Richard Roundtree could make history as Richmond County's first black sheriff

Candidate learns from humble beginnings, tough life lessons

Richard Roundtree knows he would make history should he become Richmond County’s first black sheriff.

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Richard Roundtree, a graduate of T.W. Josey High School, attended South Carolina State on a football scholarship before deciding to be a police officer.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Richard Roundtree, a graduate of T.W. Josey High School, attended South Carolina State on a football scholarship before deciding to be a police officer.
 

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But it is the 21st century, and part of him thinks those sort of milestones should be long passed.

“I never thought I would be the first African-American sheriff,” he said. “I never thought I would be the first African-American anything.”

Roundtree already can look back and see how far he has come.

He grew up on his grandparents’ small farm in the St. Clair community near Keys­ville, Ga., in Burke County. He can recall milking cows, feeding chickens and toting firewood at an early age.

“We didn’t have hot water inside the house. We had no heat; we had a fireplace to keep warm,” he said. “We had to get up at
4 in the morning to start a fire to heat the house for everybody. When I grew up, we didn’t have a lot of things at all that most kids take for granted.”

His parents moved to a one-bedroom apartment on East Boundary when he was 6 so he could attend Wilkinson Garden Elementary School.

“It was a very modest apartment, but having electricity, indoor plumbing, hot and cold running water – it was the big city to me,” he said.

In the summers, however, it was back to the farm, where he stayed while his parents worked.

Getting a chance

One story sticks out in his mind. Once, a traveling salesman paid a visit to the farmhouse. The man had a few toys, including a plastic water pistol.

“I begged and begged my grandfather if I could have it, and he said, ‘No, we can’t afford it,’ ” Roundtree said. “It cost a quarter.”

That kind of upbringing kept him out of trouble and made him appreciate the few things he had in life, Roundtree said. He learned the value of hard work, excelled at his studies in school and ended up with a college scholarship when he graduated from T.W. Josey High School in 1987.

The scholarship, however, was for football, not academics. Roundtree said he didn’t start playing football until his junior year at Josey. Until then, he was occupied with other pursuits, such as engineering and music.

“I didn’t even like football. I was in the band. I played trombone,” he said. “But then I started growing larger than the average kids. I had a growth spurt.”

Josey’s coach took notice and persuaded him to join the team two weeks before the first game. He was riding the bench as a second-string offensive tackle when the coach called on him to fill in on defense.

He started every game afterward, Roundtree said.

He pursued a degree in engineering at South Carolina State University for two years before he had a change of heart. He wanted to be a police officer.

“I had an epiphany that I was born to be a crime fighter,” he said. “I woke up, and I just knew.”

Finding a purpose

He started working as a part-time security officer at Regency Mall and applied for a job with the Augusta Police Department. He was hired in 1993.

Roundtree said he learned a lot about police work in the three years he spent with the APD.

“It was bang, bang, shoot ’em up every day,” he said “It was running and gunning. Every day was an action-packed day.”

He took advantage of every class the department offered and worked all kinds of calls.

“It gave me a good, solid background on everything you could see in law enforcement,” he said.

It also gave him his first taste of real community policing. He knew everyone on his beat, from the kids to the shop owners to the prostitutes on the street corners.

“I got to know the people,” he said. “You called them by name; they called you by name.”

In 1996, the city and county consolidated, and Roundtree moved to the sheriff’s force. His first assignment was crime suppression – “athletic young guys who liked to run” – whose job was to chase and arrest street-level drug dealers.

From there he was promoted to investigating property crimes and then to violent crimes in 1998. In 2000, he became a homicide investigator and remained one for most of the next decade, earning the rank of sergeant.

He soon found, though, that the life of a homicide investigator does not fit well with having a family.

“When that pager went off, I was going to be out three days, and I was going to catch a killer,” he said.

He loved the work and loved helping families who had lost a loved one. But he lost sight of his own, and his marriage suffered.

“I remember my mom telling me, ‘Son, you got to find some time for your family,’ ” he said. “I thought I was doing the greater good by helping these people, but I was losing my family.”

He said he still regrets the time he missed with his oldest son and has been working to make good on broken promises since he left the sheriff’s office.

“We were apart almost three years before my son realized we were divorced,” he said. “His dad was never home.”

Turbulent times

Roundtree’s career as a sheriff’s investigator hit a rough patch in 2008 while he was away at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

An investigation concluded that Round­tree had left behind several homicide case files in a former residence on Telfair Street. The property was sold and the new owners found the files, along with some of Roundtree’s belongings.

After a sheriff’s review board hearing, Roundtree was demoted for violating sheriff’s policy and placed on 12 months’ probation. He was forced to leave the violent crimes division.

According to records obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, it was the seventh time he had received disciplinary action from the department. Roundtree was suspended for a total of 16 days and had two written warnings, according to his personnel file.

Roundtree admits that taking the files out of the office violated policy, but he said they were “cold cases” he was trying to solve. He said he had not completely moved out of the apartment when the files were discovered.

“I hadn’t moved out. I still had a key,” he said, explaining that he still had clothes and his grandfather’s rifle in the apartment, things he wouldn’t abandon.

At the time, Roundtree also was investigated on allegations that he had inappropriate contact with a female inmate during a criminal investigation.

The inmate, a witness in a homicide, was checked out of the jail on at least seven occasions.

Roundtree maintains he did nothing wrong in that situation, and he was not disciplined.

Chasing a dream

The demotion left a cloud over his career, and when he saw a chance to move on to another job, he took it. Within a few months of the incident, Roundtree was hired by the Richmond County Board of Edu­cation as a lieutenant in charge of operations for the school system’s public safety department.

Roundtree said all the events and decisions that have led him to where he is now have prepared him for the job as sheriff. He says he is a little humbler and wiser than he was five years ago.

He said knows a lot of people will be hoping for his success and watching him if he takes office in January.

Many are like the wide-eyed boy he once was. His billboards and signs have made him famous enough now that children who see him in stores or on the street will point him out and whisper.

“They say, ‘That’s Richard Roundtree; he’s going to be sheriff,’ ” he said.

RICHARD ROUNDTREE

PARTY: Democrat

AGE: 43

FAMILY: Children, Rashad, 15, JaVarie, 7

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice; master’s in counseling and psychology; FBI National Academy graduate

WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR SHERIFF? I believe that law enforcement and the community have to work together to be effective in addressing the problems. I don’t just want to lock people up after they break into your house; I want to find ways to prevent them from breaking into your house.

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OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/27/12 - 05:30 pm
7
2
He keeps playing up the Historical Race card angle

I just want a sheriff I can trust to arrest people, keep them in jail, and not misplace the evidence in the process.

The master’s in counseling and psychology is going to cause him problems if he manages to get elected. It is the wrong mind set for a LEO. Counselor yes, social worker yes, Sheriff NO.

O.C.G.A. is the degree needed, along with arrest procedures, and LEO administrative skills.

Riverman1
82024
Points
Riverman1 10/27/12 - 05:51 pm
7
0
Voting Along Racial Lines

Richard Roundtree represents the move by black folks to take control of the county offices. It’s been a long time coming, but the population now certainly has the right demographics for black candidates. Richmond County is about the same racial make-up as Atlanta. When’s the last time you saw a white city wide official elected there?

Some say Richmond County is wrong and doing some kind of immoral thing to vote along racial lines. The truth is people usually vote along racial lines from Atlanta and onto about every city and state in the union.

Independent
509
Points
Independent 10/28/12 - 05:52 am
8
2
Disqualifying conduct

I couldn't vote for this candidate. His previous violations of rules and regulations make him morally ineligible for Sheriff. Richmond County needs a Sheriff with a strong belief in law and order regardless of race; he has not shown these traits in the past.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/28/12 - 07:17 am
6
0
Question

There is a part missing in "Family"
Is the Former Mrs. Roundtree still alive?
If so why hasn't she been interviewed yet?

The original AC profile: http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/elections/georgia-elections...

Lists a wife named: Teresa
But the name disappeared in followup AC articles.

Search results cannot find any AC discussions, or Marriage licenses (For the Record), or a Divorce announcements, Even Google draws a blank?

Did find these though:
http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2008/09/16/met_473574.shtml
http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2008/10/10/met_478926.shtml

wayne2410
1239
Points
wayne2410 10/28/12 - 06:49 am
5
1
I do not know very much about
Unpublished

I do not know very much about Mr Roundtree but the fact he is a democrat suggests his judgement is suspect and his loyalty to the citizens instead of his party is unlikely, democrats always put party first, country second. The smart thing would be to vote for Sanders

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 10/28/12 - 07:15 am
5
0
IMO

GHU

LillyfromtheMills
12880
Points
LillyfromtheMills 10/28/12 - 07:39 am
7
1
Having good morals is basic

Once he stepped over that first immoral act - seems the sky was the limit. It would be wonderful to have a black sheriff, but this fellow's record is so blemished that everyone should be afraid to put him in this position of authority.

seenitB4
85012
Points
seenitB4 10/28/12 - 08:01 am
8
2
History in the making

Haven't we tried that already in the White House......history doesn't mean much when you have numerous breakins.....put a qualified man in office...Freddie Sanders.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/28/12 - 08:13 am
7
1
Like everywhere,

we have R.I.N.O's - Republicans In Name Only
and we have D.I.N.O's - Democrats In Name Only.

Roundtree is a Democrat and a poster child.
He plays the Race card for votes, appears to be a single parent twice over, blamed others for the mistakes, plays the victim while preaching Historical Change We Can Believe In, and has outlined liberal ideas on Law enforcement he plans to implement beyond the scope of the Sheriffs job.

Sad too many in Augusta will only vote along racial lines and could careless that a person with repeated documented moral, personal, professional, and personality flaws is their Head Law Enforcement candidate.

tanbaby
1293
Points
tanbaby 10/28/12 - 08:34 am
0
1
he'll get in for the same
Unpublished

he'll get in for the same reason obama did....no one will vote on qualification, only skin color....

CobaltGeorge
154573
Points
CobaltGeorge 10/28/12 - 08:35 am
7
2
"Richard Roundtree could make

"Richard Roundtree could make history as Richmond County's first black sheriff"

The real question is "What Kind Of History"?

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/28/12 - 09:16 am
4
0
Still waiting...
Unpublished

Is he being paid by the RCBOE while he is running for office? This needs to be answered!! I wouldn't vote for him if he were purple. Seems like the color of his skin is more important to him thsn anyone else. I am more concerned with the content of his character.

CobaltGeorge
154573
Points
CobaltGeorge 10/28/12 - 09:22 am
3
2
F4therTime

"I am more concerned with the content of his character."

That is something really hard to find in Richmond County.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/28/12 - 10:24 am
3
2
Cobalt George Asked:

"Richard Roundtree could make history as Richmond County's first black sheriff"

The real question is "What Kind Of History"?

Well Cobalt George, he would always be known as the first black sheriff in the annals of history of Augusta Richmond County!

And apparently that is a big deal!! Look at the big deal they make about Obama all the time.

GiantsAllDay
9353
Points
GiantsAllDay 10/28/12 - 12:25 pm
9
0
Sincere question

I moved away from Augusta a while back but I read the AC on line each morning because I'm still interested in what goes on out there. So....... Why in the hell should it make a tinker's damn what political party the sheriff is? Here in California each county votes for sheriff but there is no political party attached to their names. We just vote for the man (or woman). Interesting concept. Even in Sacrmento the mayor himself and members of the city council have no political party. So if someone could please tell me why Richmond county insists that candidates for friggin' sheriff declare what party they belong to. One more thought: Do you think that a white guy with the same history of screw ups like Roundtree's would even be on the ballot?

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 10/28/12 - 01:16 pm
6
1
I say let the social workers

I say let the social workers do the social work for the county. The main focus of law enforcement in my opinion is arresting or ticketing violators. There is nothing wrong with prevention as far as community policing is concerned, but lock them up when they have violated the law, he can't decide NOT to lock someone up. I hate to seem negative, but one man cannot change the mindsets of a whole city full of thieves, drug users, and violent individuals. There are TOO MANY out there. The only way that will change is when parents take charge of their youth, and for people in general to quit making excuses for criminal behavior. The communities need to step up and do what's right. This is a cultural problem that won't change until the culture of the people change.

beboisme
425
Points
beboisme 10/28/12 - 01:25 pm
1
7
Roundtree deserves as much of

Roundtree deserves as much of a chance as anyone else. Everybody takes a fall backward sometimes and those that admit to the wrong shine a heckofalot more in my eyes than those who claim to have never made a mistake and always come out cleaner than the day before. I believe Richard has his priorities in order and could make a difference if elected. He's not about handholding with the common criminal, he's about equalizing the boundaries that have been imposed and moving on to create a city anyone would be proud to say their from. As a white person living here for most of my life I would like to hear something other than, "It's not the job of the Sheriff...". There has been too much of that and not enough of "What can we do to fix what plagues our communities?" Too much hate and not enough love can ruin any Hometown,USA. Give Roundtree a chance, he has the education to back himself as well as the experience, and the confidence to maintain the office of Sheriff. The only advise I would give to Richard is to work on his language skills. Speaking to the public and using correct pronounciation is most important in your career. Using words that your not sure of the meaning shows a lack of being able to communicate properly. Saying for example, Axe instead of ask, two different words with two different definitions. I don't mean for Richard to try to speak like a white person, but to speak like an educated person, which he is. Good luck Richard.

countyman
19670
Points
countyman 10/28/12 - 02:12 pm
4
1
This is going to be so funny

The views from the majority of Richmond County residents, and the people on this site are totally different.

rebellious
20569
Points
rebellious 10/28/12 - 02:18 pm
6
0
Nats Mom

This was posted by Nats Mom a few weeks ago. Real People, Real Pain, Real Unsolved Murder. I was there!

Unsolved...Murder 2003

although I no longer live within the county of Richmond; I spent many years. I am not a politician by no means; but I am hoping that some folks will read..think bout WHO they vote in as the Sheriff of Richmond. I had the misfortune of being introduced..to Rountree. My daughter was murdered in 2003..I got this arrogant...self centered man who could not find his way out of a paper bag. Trust me people of Richmond County that is not the kind of man you want and need as the Sheriff. As for his qualifications..I know them..or lack of them..Just where do folks find his qualifications. NOT any!! He was not a decent investigator...even though he would like for all the voters to think he was topdog. My daughter's case is cold..and kept in a drawer..I am never to know her murderer until I meet her in heaven. I was treated like the criminal in this case; because I wanted to find the wrong. Rountree was a joke. Now I have known of Freddie Sanders since the 60's...He is very qualified...smart...interested in the welfare and training of the deputies...would keep their morale up. Freddie Sanders is qualified...to be an excellent Sheriff for the people of Richomond County. Maybe after years and years of poor law enforcement...Richmond County could come up to standards in protecting You the Voters.

rebellious
20569
Points
rebellious 10/28/12 - 02:25 pm
4
0
Proper Usage

I agree on Axe versus Ask

Also on The proper usage of Their, There, and They're
or advise versus advice
or hear vesrus here

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/28/12 - 02:41 pm
6
0
Some say Roundtree deserves as much of a chance as anyone else.

He was repeatedly given chances and earned opportunities along the way. But he reached a certain level in his career that he could no longer pass the grade, made some serious bad judgement calls and was demoted.

Consider
We give preachers a 2nd chance, but not be the leader of a church, after religiously or morally failing.

We give Criminals a 2nd & even 3rd + chances in society. But they are no longer looked at as upstanding model citizens. Many even lose certain rights because of their poor judgement history.

We give lots of professionals a 2nd chance. But when they screw up we don't put them on a path even higher responsibility, do we?

Why, because more is expected of the those that make judgement calls that affect the lives, and safety of those the govern.

This is why Mr. Roundtree should not be running for sheriff.

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 10/28/12 - 02:38 pm
2
0
bebo

... "they are" instead of "their" or "you are" instead of "your" !

beboisme
425
Points
beboisme 10/28/12 - 03:23 pm
0
0
Or, they're or, you're, or

Or, they're or, you're, or there u go!

beboisme
425
Points
beboisme 10/28/12 - 03:29 pm
0
0
Sorry about your history with

Sorry about your history with Roundtree, but I saw a different side when my neighbors son was murdered. Totally different in that Roundtree was as compassionate as anyone human being can be in a situation as that was. I would be honored if Roundtree delivered to my family the news of my death the way he presented this to my friend. Tears don't mean a thing unless they come from the heart, as his did, and tha case was closed shortly thereafter.

corgimom
30860
Points
corgimom 10/28/12 - 03:30 pm
0
0
Considering that Augusta has

Considering that Augusta has declined into a hot mess of crime, SOMETHING has to be done differently! Do things the same way, you get the same results.

Take a look at the crime stats. The current way of doing things isnt working. Through Oct 2012, over 20,000 cases, 3,364 arrests. A criminal has about a 1 out of 6 chance to be arrested. For corn's sake, why WOULD a criminal stop committing crimes? They would be stupid to do that!

And people want it to STAY THE SAME????

Who cares what color the sheriff is, or what political party he is affiliated with, somebody needs to come in there that can fix the mess!

corgimom
30860
Points
corgimom 10/28/12 - 03:31 pm
0
0
And 20,000 cases just

And 20,000 cases just represents the REPORTED ones, the real number is much higher.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/28/12 - 05:07 pm
1
0
Countyman...

I can't believe you said that. Is that really you?

Where are our beloved statistics? Taking Sunday off?

Did some aliens come down and whisk the real countyman away and replace him with someone else?

But, I agree with you. :O)

This has been fun to read. Folks really feel strongly one way or the other about Roundtree, especially if they know him apparently...interesting.

Riverman1
82024
Points
Riverman1 10/29/12 - 08:12 am
1
0
Countyman said, "The views

Countyman said, "The views from the majority of Richmond County residents, and the people on this site are totally different."

Heh, heh, heh....Boy, you sure got that right.

But I rent a loft room above a store on Broad St. Everytime I want to post about something in Richmond Cty., I make sure I run down there and send it from my room in beautiful downtown Augusta. (This was sent from an iPhone in Richmond Cty)

ginah1288
20
Points
ginah1288 10/29/12 - 05:20 pm
0
1
Give me a break

I have been a resident of Richmond County since 1994, never have I been a victim. But, if I had, I would love Mr. Roundtree to be on the case. Yes he has indescretions, but which of you dont, because I know I do. I would hope that as I grow, you who are condemning would also be forgiving and allow me to make improvements in my life. I am in no way a criminal, but I have worked with many. Mr. Roundtree is a compassionate man and people who base his morality on his past are people who have never made a mistake or never will. I hope that while you make these distasteful comments about Mr. Roundtree you are making them based on knowing who he is today, a man running for an important office today, not yesterday. Mr. Roundtree is more than qualified to be in the position of Sheriff not because he is black but because he has proven his ability to relate to this community (something this community most definitely needs) and his ability to close cases. I am sorry that no one has closed all the cold cases in this community, and I am sorry for your loss, but you cant hold that against a man that is doing the very best for this community. I know where my vote went and I hope to be congratulating Mr. Roundtree on November 6th.

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