Hello darkness, my old friend. Long before Simon and Garfunkel used the opening line in their song, “The Sounds of Silence,” I heard my mother, Ellen, use the phrase while talking to her sister, Margaret, on the telephone one afternoon in our home in Port William. They were discussing a family problem that had recently occurred.
Mom understood the darkness of the world very well. She was born a year after her family had survived the ravages of the Spanish Flu. The Great Depression struck the nation and her family’s small farm on Sabina Road. Then, as a caring mother, she agonized as our young men and women fought in World War II, Korea, and later Vietnam. She mourned the assassinations of President Kennedy, a man she had met in Dayton three years earlier, and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee.
Unfortunately, our country and state are facing darkness again. The COVID-19 pandemic has overtaken our society, wreaking havoc on our medical, financial and mental well-being. Our major cities are under attack by lawless anarchists who threaten to burn down our towns, and the Speaker of the Ohio House is under FBI investigation and has been ousted.
As a retired law enforcement officer, I am concerned about the current divide that separates people in our country. The thread that brought the two issues together for me, law enforcement and racial divide, was reading in the local newspaper earlier this week that Paul Newland of Sabina had died. Paul was the brother of the late Larry Newland, a good friend of mine.
Paul worked in Sabina for many years, and Larry became a deputy sheriff under the late Clinton County sheriff, Don Osborn. Larry was a former Sabina Police Officer and later served Clinton County as a deputy sheriff honorably for 24 years, from 1969 to 1992.
When Larry started work with the Sheriff’s Department, he often was the only deputy working the midnight shift, patrolling the entire county of 42,000 people by himself, without any back-up. When the radio dispatcher sent Larry Newland to a call, be it a domestic disturbance, a fight, or other dangerous situation, he handled each one alone, and handled them with much courage and professionalism.
Contrary to widely held belief, there was just as much violence in 1969 as there is today. But Larry Newland took his responsibility seriously and stood strong.
It took considerable courage for Larry Newland to go to work each night knowing his very survival rested in his own hands.
When I ran for sheriff in 1980, I spent a full year traveling the county listening to constituents in preparation of forming a reorganization plan.
My late brother, Jack, who was a Wilmington City police officer at the time, and I spent considerable time visiting in the black community getting their feedback. We met with the late Pastor Larry Harris, Charles Lewis, Bill Burns, Gilbert Robinson, and Charles “Hammie” Graham, shortly before his death.
These men repeatedly told us, the most important thing I could do as sheriff would be to bring more minorities into the workforce in Clinton County. Just give them a chance, they pleaded. They said there were very few minorities working for the county at the time. They felt, and I agreed, having more minorities would not only strengthen trust within the overall community, it would help to make Clinton County a better place to live.
After my election as Sheriff, the first major decision I made was to name Deputy Sheriff Larry Newland, an African-American, my Chief Deputy Sheriff. Within months, I promoted Deputy Bill Turner, also an African-American, to oversee Corrections. Further, I hired Vanessa McKee as a dispatcher and several other minorities to serve in various responsible positions. These men and women were hired and promoted because they were the best applicants for their respective positions.
Overall, I believed then, and still do today, that it helped make it easier for those who felt an unease with law enforcement to seek out those with whom they had a comfort level for advice and counsel.
C.S. Lewis reminds us, “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
Perhaps Clinton County officials should consider erecting a memorial in honor of Chief Deputy Sheriff Larry Newland somewhere on the courthouse grounds. Colonel Newland remains the highest ranking African-American county official in Clinton County history.
Larry was a professional who served the public with unwavering commitment and dedication. The respect in which the law enforcement community held him is something that any police officer would wish to achieve.
This sign of respect might help us say goodbye, in some small way, to “hello darkness, my old friend.”
Pat Haley is a Clinton County native and former county sheriff and commissioner.