First African American police officer killed in the line of duty honored

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The first African American police officer killed in the line of duty for the City of Charleston honored at the highest level for the state. On Wednesday, Private Thomas J. Martin is expected to be inducted into the South Carolina Law Enforcement Hall of Fame.

On Monday, the City of Charleston held a ceremony that was full of reconciliation and recognition for Private Martin.

John Tecklenburg, the Mayor of the City of Charleston, apologized on behalf of the city for the injustice to the Martin family. Following the death of Private Martin, the people responsible were not prosecuted.

This apology comes for the 150 years after Johanna Martin-Carrington’s great-grandfather, Private Thomas J. Martin was killed.  

They (the city) told me how he died. So it wasn’t anything the family talked about. Because there was no justice they felt done. And that’s why it became the tradition that as the boys got to a certain age—they left Charleston.  

Johanna Martin-Carrington Great-Granddaughter of Pvt. Martin 

Martin-Carrington said the family has recently come back to the Lowcountry and are challenging the city to do better for the future.

Mayor Tecklenburg got up there and apologized. That was saying a lot for a city. Now let’s see—I told him put your money where your mouth is. So now this is beginning to do that. We are talking about what we should have done and not what we should do better. You’re not hearing that around the country. I hope this gets to be a place where that can happen.   

Johanna Martin-Carrington, Great-Granddaughter of Pvt. Martin 

Both Martin-Carrington and Mayor John Tecklenburg were in agreeance that this recognition is the first of many steps forward.  

So it’s a journey that we’re on, this is one step in that journey. Another step was the audit that we completed over a year ago to look even today, 150 years later at racial inequities in our police department. And not just study them but come up with actions that we need to address with those inequities, and that’s exactly what we are doing.  

Mayor John Tecklenburg, City of Charleston 

Another effort to right the past will be to find Private Martin’s exact burial site, as he currently lays in an unmarked grave.

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