FLORENCE — Two hundred years ago this month, a young man named Charles Roundtree became the first to receive a title that only 42 men have ever held.
"Alabama became a state in 1819 and Charles Roundtree was appointed sheriff of Lauderdale County on Jan. 24, 1820," current Sheriff Rick Singleton said. "He was in his 20s when he was appointed and was the ranger for the Lauderdale County territory before Alabama became a state."
This year, the sheriff's office is commemorating 200 years as a unit and planning an anniversary celebration of the first swearing in, Singleton said.
"On Jan. 24th, we're dedicating a memorial that's been erected at Memorial Grove at 11 a.m.," he said.
The grove is on the hill where Florence Boulevard turns into Tennessee Street.
"We'll have a ceremony and unveiling of the monument, followed by a memorial service honoring the three deputies who have been killed in the line of duty," Singleton said.
An open house at the sheriff's office on the second floor of the Lauderdale County Courthouse will follow from 2-4 p.m.
"We invite all of our citizens who can to drop by," Singleton said.
Already, the public may have noticed something that is being done as a nod to the anniversary.
"We're doing a lot of special things this month especially in the sheriff's office," Singleton said. "We've approved a special uniform for the deputies. You'll see them wearing jeans and boots and have a special hat for them to wear, as part of a throwback to that particular era."
The sheriff said his office has prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the history of the department if any groups are interested in having them present it. Anyone interested can call the department at 256-760-5757.
Singleton promises it contains some unique stories.
"We had some folks arrested in the west end of the county for bringing rattlesnakes into a church service and disrupting them," he said. "There's a tale that the sheriff spent the night in a hotel in Waterloo when he arrested Jesse James. I'm not sure how true that is, but we found one article in print that says the sheriff spent a night there when he arrested him."
Singleton said research also revealed that an African-American man, William Vaughn, ran for sheriff in 1872.
"He is the only African-American to run for sheriff in Lauderdale County," he said.
Singleton said some troubling documents that are reminders of a terrible part of Alabama's history also have been found.
"In the pre-Civil War era, some issues included slaves the sheriff had to sell at public auction to satisfy some civil claims," he said. "That was pretty sobering when I read that."