When Guilford County Sheriff-elect Danny Rogers is sworn in on Monday, Dec. 3, most eyes will be on Rogers, however, there’s a lot of subtext in his swearing-in ceremony since the man doing the honors – former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye – has been a major advocate for the themes of racial justice that Rogers says will be important in his administration as sheriff.
It was by no means a coincidence that Rogers, the first black sheriff of Guilford County, selected Frye, the first black justice on the NC Supreme Court, to do the honors.
One of Rogers’ main criticisms of outgoing Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes’ handling of the Sheriff’s Department is that Barnes didn’t hire enough minority officers and, when he did hire, Rogers maintains, did not promote them or discipline them fairly compared with white employees. That is a charge Barnes vehemently denies.
Rogers has said the Sheriff Department is going to begin to have a force that is more representative of the community it serves.
Rogers will certainly be sworn in by someone who knows all about fighting for minority rights.
In 1968, Frye was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly, where he was the only African-American serving in that body and the first black to be elected in the 20th century. While in office, Frye used his position to fight for racial justice and equal rights. He served in the state House until 1980 when he was elected to state Senate where he served until 1982.
In 1983, Governor Jim Hunt appointed Frye to the North Carolina Supreme Court – making him the first African-American to serve on that court. In 1999, Hunt appointed Frye as the first black Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court.
There was a little bit of discussion among county officials as to whether Frye could swear in Rogers since Frye is a retired judge rather than an active one.
The answer? Yes.
Guilford County Clerk the Board Robin Keller said, “The statute for oaths of office specifically includes retired judges as those able to issue oaths.”
Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne also said it is fine and lawful for retired judges to issue oaths.