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WHAT IT MEANS: Newton sheriff says successes built on ‘foundation’ of great influencers
Ezell Brown GSA
Sheriff Ezell Brown - photo by Courtesy of the Newton County Sheriff's Office

About this Series: Throughout the month of February, "What It Means: A Black History Month Series" will tell the story of leaders within Newton County's Black community, while highlighting the importance of Black History Month and acknowledging the continued progress toward reaching equality.

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown said he could not take credit for any personal achievements  without acknowledging the “foundation on which I stand.”

That’s why he believes everyone should take time every February to recognize and reflect on Black history — a core component of American history.

Before working in law enforcement, Brown cut his teeth in construction, and it was in that field he learned a valuable lesson.

“As a builder by trade, I was taught that, when building a structure, it was important to begin with a solid, sound foundation. That's the only way to ensure stability, durability and long-term sustainability,” he recalled. “I am who I am because of all who came before me! I can't take credit for my achievements without looking at the foundation on which I stand. That, I believe, is why Black History Month is so important.”

Several African American men helped Brown become the man he is today, including James T. Jones, Garland Hillman, T.K. Adams and many more. 

“When I think of the ones who inspired me, there is not one person but many who I stand on the shoulder of,” Brown said. “My path to leadership was shaped and molded by several great men in this community, but most importantly, by my father.”

Brown said Jones taught him the lesson of “not settling for today's wins but striving daily to do better, be better, leave your mark, and creating a path for someone else to follow.”

Hillman, who was the first African American member of the Newton County Board of Education and also a rental property manager/owner, taught Brown how to invest in his future.

“Do something that will take care of you, your children and your children's children,” Brown said. “He chose the rental business, education and church.”

Community leader and band director T.K. Adams always said to “how yourself as a friendly person; and in doing so, you will always be rich, admired and loved,” Brown said.

Brown said patrolmen Lonnie Gleaton and Homer Marks; Lt. Junus Clark, who was the first African American with rank; deputies Henry Goss and Daryl Henderson; and Sgt. Cleo Banks helped mold Brown into a quality law enforcement officer.

In 2008, Brown was elected the county’s first African American sheriff. He said Banks was the only one from his “squad” who lived to see Brown take office.

While Brown had many great influences in his life, he strives to be an example and inspiration for the next generation.

“Since 2008, I've tried to be someone that lets children know that their dreams can come true, just like mine did,” he said.

As Newton County’s chief law enforcement officer, Brown has a direct impact on quality of life for not only the Black community, but for everyone.

"I work every day of my life, personally and professionally, to ensure that Newton County is the place that people from every walk want to call home,” he said. “I believe that the desire to raise children and grow old are characteristics among our community.  Life is not perfect, but where does that place exist? Our community is made up of neighborhoods that are both alike and different. I realize that I am not [on] an island, nor is the sheriff's office. So, we work in partnership with a number of organizations and community advocates to improve the quality of life for all.”

Brown said some of those organizations include the NAACP, members of the Divine Nine Fraternities and Sororities, National Action Network, and other civic groups and faith communities, which have formed a “critical safety net” that allows various groups within the Newton County to voice and address any concerns.

“We work hand-in-hand to positively impact and improve our community,” Brown said. “Continuous quality improvement is the lens through which we view our mission … We [the Newton County Sheriff’s Office] strive daily to ‘serve and protect’ all.”