Contact Us

The Bob Fitch Photography Archive Movements for Change

Thomas Gilmore, the black sheriff of Greene County 32 items

The Reverend Thomas E. Gilmore was the second black sheriff in the state of Alabama and the first black sheriff elected in Greene County. Known as the “sheriff without a gun,” Gilmore was a Baptist Minister who espoused Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy of non-violence. Born in Forkland, Alabama, in 1941 and educated at Selma University, Gilmore lived briefly in Los Angeles before returning to Alabama in 1963 with his wife and three young sons. Gilmore was active in the local Civil Rights Movement and became a paid staff member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1965, Gilmore helped lead a demonstration in Eutaw, Alabama, after a young black woman was assaulted by a deputy sheriff. While trying to file a complaint with the district attorney, Gilmore and others were beaten by the Greene County Sheriff. Following this incident, clergyman and civil rights leader Rev. William McKinley Branch suggested that Gilmore seek the office of sheriff himself. After an initial 1966 defeat (owing to "voter irregularities"), Gilmore was elected in 1970 and served as Sheriff of Green County until 1983. After retiring, Gilmore went on to serve as a pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ensley until his passing in August 2015.

Number of results to display per page