SAVANNAH, Ga. - Sgt. William Malone spent his days marching up and down East Broad Street dodging racial epithets, rainstorms and sometimes bullets.
On Monday, more than 200 people recounted the steps of the former Savannah Police Department officer as they said goodbye to the man who had broken a longstanding racial barrier 60 years earlier.
"Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Don't tell them about all the awards I got. Tell them I was a drum major for justice, " the Rev. William R. Price told the group inside St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church on East Broad Street. "My uncle (Mr. Malone) was a drum major for justice, a drum major for humanity."
Mr. Malone, 84, was one of the "Original Nine," the first black police officers hired in Georgia in 1947. He died May 7.
Dozens of police officers, family and friends gathered Monday to remember the sacrifices he made.
"We knew we were going to change the course of history, which we were proud to do. We set an example for the rest of the nation," said retired Sgt. John White, another of the Original Nine.
Although they were sworn in as police officers, Mr. White said, they could not arrest white people, drive police cruisers or wear their uniforms outside the department. Their headquarters was separate, and they had to drink at separate water fountains.
"I just hope the younger people never forget this," said Mr. Malone's wife, Lee.