Remembering Sheriff B. J. Roberts

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Posted Dec 28, 2020

Sheriff B. J. RobertsB. J. Roberts, who served on NCCHC’s board of directors for nearly 19 years, died peacefully at his home on December 26. As the board liaison of the National Sheriffs’ Association, Sheriff Roberts’ contributions to NCCHC’s success were incalculable.

Sheriff Roberts is notable for many things, including in 1992 being the first Black person elected to serve as sheriff in Hampton, Virginia. He was reelected six times, making him the longest serving sheriff in the state. In 2010, he also became the first Black president of the National Sheriffs’ Association. In January 2020 he announced he would retire from his office in January 2021, and he resigned from the NCCHC board in April 2020.

Sheriff Roberts set his sights on a career in law enforcement while still a child. He started his career as a patrolman for the Newport News Police Department in 1972. He then spent 19 years on the force for Hampton University’s Campus Police Department, rising to become director of police and public safety. In 1986 he earned a degree in business management from the university. When he took office as sheriff, he was faced with an overcrowded jail beset by trouble and poor community relations. He soon turned that around, creating a training unit for new deputies, opening a minimum-security facility, and improving health care. He was especially focused on providing job skills training and reentry services to smooth the transition back to the community.

At NCCHC, Sheriff Roberts served many years on the committee that awards facility accreditation, sharing his knowledge of expectations for a well-run health services operation. A strong advocate of accreditation and quality care for the incarcerated, he ensured that his own facilities became NCCHC-accredited in 1997, a status they continue to hold.

A man of integrity, humility, and good humor, Sheriff Roberts will be greatly missed.