Home Lifestyle BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Clemmons leaves legacy as Richmond County lawman

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Clemmons leaves legacy as Richmond County lawman

The late James Clemmons served as sheriff of Richmond County for a decade.

In our series, we strive to highlight some of the many members of our community who are worthy of recognition and, in the past three years, have yet to make a dent in that long list. Although our goal is to add new features every year, we would be remiss if we did not include some of our most impactful leaders, such as our former Richmond County Sheriff, James Edward Clemmons Jr., “Clem,” made such an indelible mark on our community, personally and professionally, thereby cementing his fixed annual feature status in our series.

James “Clem” Clemmons made history as the first person of color to be elected as the Sheriff of Richmond County in 2011, but this wasn’t his first time he made history in his career.

Prior to becoming the chief law enforcement executive in the county, Clemmons was the first person of color to hold the rank of major in 2002.

He was the son of James Edward (Pete) Clemmons Sr., and the late Beverly Price Clemmons, and has one son, James Edward Clemmons III.

A 1979 Graduate of South Brunswick High School in Boiling Springs, Clemmons graduated from Livingstone College in 1983 and Mount Olive College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice.

His career in public service began in 1981 as a correctional officer for the North Carolina Division of Prisons. In 1989 he became a patrol deputy for the RCSO and was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the detective division in 1991. He continued moving up the ranks and was promoted to lieutenant in 1997 and to captain in 1998.

Some of his notable duties and roles included: former commander of the RCSO SRT (Special Response Team); community police training, which prepared him to be the Community Policing coordinator for the Town of Dobbins Heights; and overseeing the Civil Division, patrol, jail and courts.


He received numerous awards and certificates (and was appointed to several boards):
• State of North Carolina CICP Certified Investigator
• Trained at the Trainer Instructor School for Community Policing
• Police Law Institute Training
• Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate
• Inducted into Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society “Delta Kappa” Chapter
• Vice Chairman of the Richmond County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council 2007-2008
• 2008 Graduate of Leadership Richmond
• 2009 recipient of the North Carolina Sheriffs Education and Training Standards Commission Intermediate Service Award
• 2009 recipient of the North Carolina Sheriffs Education and Training Standards Commission Advanced Service A ward
• 2010 Chairman of Leadership Richmond
• 2012 Graduate of the North Carolina Sheriff Leadership Institute
• Member of the North Carolina Sentencing Commission
• Member of the North Carolina Justice Reinvestment Commission
• North Carolina Sheriff’s Associations Legislative Committee
• 2013-2014 appointed Co-Chair of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Associations Auditing Committee
• 2014-2015 Elected Third Vice President of the North Carolina Sheriffs Association
• 2016-2017 Elected Second Vice President of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association
• 2017-2018 Elected First Vice President of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association
• 2018-2019 Elected President of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association
• 2019-2020 Chairman of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association Executive Board
• 2020 Appointed Commissioner for the President’s Commission for Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice
• 2020 Appointed to Governor Roy Cooper’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice
• 2020 Appointed to North Carolina Juvenile Justice Planning Committee by Gov. Roy Cooper
Sheriff Clemmons was very active in the Richmond County Communities and served on the the following Civic Organizations and Boards:
• Member of Western Star #9 Masonic Lodge Salisbury, North Carolina
• Financial Member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. (Lambda Iota Iota Chapter)
• Member of the Richmond County Martin Luther King Celebration Steering Committee
• Member of Greek Inc. (Assist deserving High School Seniors with Scholarships)
• Richmond County Law-Enforcement Co-Chairman for North Carolina Special Olympics since 1994
• Member of the Richmond County Pee Dee Youth Council
• Member of Richmond County Criminal Justice Partnership Program
• Founding Member of the Rockingham Chapter of “HIP” (Helping to Improve Potential)
• 2014-2016 Executive Director of Programs, for the Richmond County (BSA) Boy Scouts of America
• Member of the Rockingham Chapter of Civitan since 2014
Additionally, Clemmons was a member and trustee of Grace Temple Fellowship Church in Wallace, SC.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

Thomas Campbell’s quote could not be more true of Sheriff James Clemmons. On Aug. 5, 2021, our beloved Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons passed away.

On April 25, 2022, the overpass on U.S. 1, where it crosses over the U.S. 74 Bypass, NCDOT honored memorialized Clem by renaming the the bridge to the Sheriff James E. Clemmons, Jr. Bridge, in accordance with section 41.43 of the state budget.

Join us today in celebrating a leader who listened, was a true role model, and an absolute representative of Black History of Richmond County! Thank you, Sheriff Clemmons, “Clem,” for all that you did and the permanent mark you left on our community. We are truly better because of you.

Editor’s Note: Visit Richmond County is highlighting prominent local African Americans each day in February in honor of Black History Month.

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