LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A pioneer and fighter, Shelby Lanier Jr. wasn’t just a pillar in black history, he changed Louisville’s history and the police force.
Lanier died Sunday of natural causes. But he left quite a legacy behind.
"Wherever racism carried its ugly face, Shelby was there to address the issue,” Lanier’s friend Mattie Jones said.
In the 1970s, Lanier realized qualified African Americans were taking the police exam in Louisville but not getting accepted.
Lanier addressed the issue by filing a lawsuit against Louisville Police in 1974.
"What came of that was the consent decree,” Michael Canteen, former President of the Black Police Officers Organization, said.
Two men who were hired because of Lanier’s moves are LMPD spokesman Dwight Mitchell and Metro Council President David James.
"I personally was hired under the consent degree in the early 80s,” Mitchell said. "I have a 35-plus year career because of the risk that he took.”
A black officer was hired for every white officer from 1980 to 1987.
"It caused about 80 African Americans to be hired in the police department, and I was one of those 80,” James said.
Lanier founded the Black Police Officers Organization for support and recognition.
“He was on a crusade to try to make a change in the department,” Canteen said. “Black officers were not getting promoted. They were not getting represented, and discrimination was taking place.”
James added: "Change doesn’t happen on it’s own, people have to make change and Shelby made it happen.”
Lanier served for 27 years until he retired from Louisville Police in 1984. But he kept fighting for equal rights as a President of the NAACP.
"Shelby didn’t talk it, he showed it in his walk of life,” Jones said.
A visitation has been scheduled for Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Emmanuel Baptist Church at 3815 West Broadway. The funeral will take place at the same location Friday at 11 a.m.
The Black Police Officers Organization is currently inactive. Canteen said someone new needs to take over and get the organization approved by the state to get re-instated.