Current and former local leaders of the law enforcement field reminisced this week about the life and legacy of one of their own, Earline Johnson, Lincoln Countyâ€™s first African-American female deputy, who died over the weekend.
“Earline has always had a positive outlook on life and great faith in religion, in family and in people,” former Lincoln County Sheriff Barbara Pickens said.
She considered Earline, a Cherryville native but long-time Lincoln County resident, to be a non-biological sister. The two shared a friendship that spanned more than four decades, “She would tell you exactly what she thought,” Pickens said. “She just had that great personality.”
After Earline graduated in 1965 from now-defunct Newbold High School, she obtained her criminal justice degree from Gaston College. A few years later at the age of 28, she made history by becoming the first black female to ever be sworn at the countyâ€™s Sheriffâ€™s Office. Earlineâ€™s unprecedented role got her published in a 1978 edition of Jet Magazine.
Over the years, she maintained a multitude of law enforcement responsibilities in the county, a majority of which included work with female inmates and children.
“She would take females to court and interview female victims and worked in child and adoption matters,” Pickens said.
Mother of two and, later in life, grandmother of four, Earline eventually took on the title of juvenile officer, which Pickens said “suited her to a â€˜T.â€™”
“She had a real desire to see children do well,” she said.
That same year, former sheriff Harven A. Crouse, for whom the jail was later named, promoted Earline to supervisor of the Matronâ€™s Division.
She also worked on the road, in the jail and with the Communications Center. In 1980, she was promoted to sergeant, the same year she accepted an award for Officer of the Year.
Current Lincoln County sheriff, David Carpenter, also spent much time with Earline, a woman whom he called a “dear friend.”
“You could ask her to do it, and she didnâ€™t ask any questions,” Carpenter said. “She got it done.”
The two served seven years together at two of the countyâ€™s well-known annual camp meeting revivals and worked several months together at Lincolnton High School in the 1990s when Carpenter was filling in as a temporary school resource officer and Earline was serving as an in-school suspension (ISS) teacher.
“She was a tremendous asset to our agency,” Carpenter said.
Earlineâ€™s son, Tim Stover, said his mother additionally worked as an assistant teacher at Iron Station Elementary.
“Her gift was giving,” he said. Stover pointed out the extent of his motherâ€™s compassion for others by noting how much she loved to cook.
“She wanted to make everyone happy by feeding them â€” everybody and anybody that called,” he said. “She gave them the menu of what she had and invited everyone she could think of.”
Her love for people extended into both her community life and church life. Earline not only served on numerous local boards including Apple Festival Board, National Night Out and Coalition of Black Churches, to name a few, but also taught Sunday school, ushered and sang in the choir at Greater Mooreâ€™s Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Lincolnton.
Earline celebrated her 65th birthday earlier this month, and Pickens still remembers the quality time she spent with her friend recently in the hospital.
“I didnâ€™t know that was going to be the last time I saw her,” she said. “You knew whenever you were with her, she was going to make you smile.”
Earline was preceded in death by her mother, a brother and her daughter Felicia Adams.
A funeral service for Earline Johnson was set for 2 p.m. today at Lincolntonâ€™s Providence Missionary Baptist Church, with friends received at 1:30 p.m. and burial following at Greater Mooreâ€™s Chapel.
“She has left quite a legacy,” Pickens said.
Captain Cindy Monday of the Lincolnton Police Department agreed.
“Sheâ€™s been a pillar of our community,” she said.