In July 2017, another milestone in the history of black South Carolinians was marked when Christopher N. Williamson was named the first commander of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
Williamson has been with the Highway Patrol for 29 years.
Williamson was born and raised in Society Hill in Darlington County. He graduated from Rosenwald High School, where he attended along with former Gov. David Beasley.
After high school, he enrolled in Fayetteville State University on a track scholarship. Williamson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Upon his graduation, he returned to Darlington County and began working with the Darlington County Sheriff’s Department. He worked that job for three years and decided to join the South Carolina Highway Patrol in 1988.
His first assignment was in Moncks Corner in Berkeley County. He patrolled the roads for 10 years. Then in 1998, Williamson was promoted to corporal and was made the assistant to the supervisor. Soon after, he was promoted to sergeant and moved on to Calhoun County.
Williamson continued to swiftly rise higher by receiving another promotion to lieutenant and was moved back to Charleston County. In 2006, he jumped up higher to the position of captain and was made the commander of Troop Seven in the Orangeburg area.
In an interview with Cassie Cope of The State newspaper, he said, “I found my passion for law enforcement, wanting to be a law enforcement officer, at the young age of 12 years. My 9-year-old sister was killed by a drunk driver … I watched my parents go through that suffering and had to deal with it. And my mentality then was that when I become of age, I would go to college, get a degree… (and) take drunk drivers off the road and make a difference. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”
On reaching this honorable accomplishment, Williamson said, “The fact that I am African-American, I have no control over. I just happen to be African-American, but I feel like I’m the colonel for all people regardless of the color of my skin. I have the skill set, the ability, the education and the background to be able to do this job and save people’s lives and help accomplish the mission towards highway safety issues.”
In a conversation with Errol Brooks -- the son of the first black S.C. Highway Patrolman and U.S. marshal in South Carolina, Israel Brooks -- he said, “The first words to come out of the mouth of Colonel Williamson when he addressed his swearing in were thanks to God and thanks to Israel Brooks, who convinced him to join the Highway Patrol. “Had it not been for Israel Brooks, I would not be in this position today.’”
I met both Col. Williamson and U.S. Marshal Israel Brooks at a banquet function in Charleston around 1998. As the saying goes, “First impression is the last impression.” Williamson came across to me as being a strong and determined person. I remembered him talking about how he so admired Brooks for his outstanding contributions to the law enforcement world. Along with that, I sensed, he was seeking to advance up the ladder of success just as Brooks did.
As I look back over the years that I have known Col. Williamson, I can truly say, he is a short man in statue and a giant of a man in character, commitment and determination.