“Deputy Sheriff Hardeman, reporting”

February 22nd, 2012

Texas has 254 counties so Tarrant County may not stand out in your mind unless you are told that Fort Worth is the country seat. Fort Worth is proud of its legacy of cowboys and cattle drives, aerospace and retail stores. Further out in the county comes the University of Texas at Arlington and the home of the American League champion Texas Rangers.

Tarrant County can also lay claim to another highlight this Black History Month and that is the career and accomplishments of Wesley Hardeman, the first African-American deputy sheriff in all of Tarrant County.

That might not seem exceptional were it not for the fact that Sheriff Hardeman, who lived from 1906 to 1966, served as a peace officer during the difficult Jim Crow years in the American Southwest. This was 1955, a time when colored people could not drink from the same water fountains as whites and the law was something Hispanics and blacks were often found studiously avoiding.

But not Wesley Hardeman. He was early into the right side of law enforcement when he opened up his own detective agency before becoming a peace officer. In May, 2007 the 84th state legislature in a proclamation honoring Deputy Sheriff Hardeman paid tribute to his “strong religious faith expressed in countless acts of kindness.” Hardeman was exceptional, it stated, in that “he faced challenges above and beyond those confronting his white counterparts, including discriminatory personnel policies and threats to his family, he discharged his duties with exemplary courage, dignity and professionalism.”

Sheriff Hardeman’s daughter, Bernice McDuffie of Lancaster, California, remembers that her dad was not supposed to arrest white people but he did. She recalls one bad moment when her dad and his partner and her were driving in their police cruiser and two white officers pulled them over, arrogantly shining flashlights in their faces. They wrote a ticket to the partner even thought they knew full well who they were. The man who appointed Mr. Hardeman in 1955, Sheriff Harlon Wright, was later voted out of office by hostile electors at the next election even though local TV had proudly covered Mr. Hardeman’s appointment as deputy.

Deputy Sheriff Hardeman was to win many awards for his skill and abilities and fair-mindedness, something the community evidently appreciated as they made him Grand Marshall at many county functions and invited him to speak in area high schools on good citizenship. Black History Month should remember Wesley Hardeman – a man who weathered the storm thorough faith and family.