On Aug. 19, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston appointed former Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison to the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that on Monday, Aug. 30, Garrison resigned this position. Garrison’s resignation comes after an old photo of him wearing a Klu Klux Klan outfit resurfaced. A spokesperson for Speaker Ralston gave one statement on the matter: “Sheriff Garrison has resigned from the JQC. The speaker will appoint a replacement as soon as practical.”
While not surprising that a former Georgia sheriff has old photos of him wearing KKK regalia, what is a touch surprising is that this very photo first surfaced back in 2012. At the time Garrison was involved in an election for his position, and he blamed his opponent of leaking the images to the press. At the time, Garrison said the photo was from a Halloween party some time in the 1980s, and that he was replicating a scene from Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles: “I don’t deny it wasn’t stupid, looking back now. But there again I say what 21- or 22-year-old in this world hasn’t made some stupid mistakes?”
Huffpost reports that at the time of the 2012 revelations, Garrison had been Cherokee County sheriff for 20 years. And while the photo may have been taken before he was elected sheriff, it seemed to have been taken while he was a law enforcement officer in Georgia. As was reported at the time, Georgia has outlawed the wearing of Klu Klux Klan masks and hoods for decades. In fact, conservatives have attempted to use the law to whatabout their own racism and Islamophobia in recent years.
The Journal-Constitution reports that even with the KKK hood, the racism, the breaking the law, the racism, and the racism, Garrison won reelection that year with 68% of the vote. He retired in 2016. His benefactor here, Speaker Ralston, has been very open in his racist voter suppression tactics and beliefs for some time now. His objections to mailing out absentee ballots during the pandemic were as clear as the photo of Garrison wearing a KKK hood and robe: “This will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia. Every registered voter is going to get one of these. … This will certainly drive up turnout.”
The Judicial Qualifications Commission, created by a constitutional amendment in 1972, is supposed to “conduct investigations and hearings with respect to complaints of misconduct by Georgia judges, and is also authorized to issue opinions regarding appropriate judicial conduct.” A racist House speaker, whose only workable platform is suppressing Black people’s constitutional right to vote in his state, gives a position on a state commission that investigates judicial misconduct—frequently racist misconduct—to a former law enforcement official with KKK skeletons in his closet. That’s one of the less subtle versions of institutional or systemic white supremacy in our country.
Published with permission of Daily Kos