The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office:
Looking back at our history
The office of sheriff is one of antiquity. It is the oldest law enforcement office known within the common-law system and it has always been accorded great dignity and high trust. For the most part, the office of sheriff evolved from necessity. Were it not for laws which require enforcing, there would be no necessity for the sheriff. Today, as in the past, the county sheriff is a peace office entrusted with the maintenance of law and order and the preservation of domestic tranquility.
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has a rich history dating back to 1854 with the first sheriff being Jonas S. Smith. He served two years. The current Sheriff is Theodore “Ted” Jackson who became the 27th person to hold the office. His term began January 1, 2009. Previously, Sheriff Jackson was appointed to serve as interim sheriff in 2004 until the election of Myron E. Freeman.
The longest serving sheriff in Fulton County history was James I. Lowry who held the office for 22 years after being elected in 1916. The first African American sheriff was Richard Langford, who served from 1985-1989. Sheriff Langford was preceded by Sheriff Leroy Stynchcombe. The first female sheriff elected in Fulton County was Jacquelyn Barrett who held the office from 1993 until 2004. She was the first African American female sheriff in the United States of America.
According to historians, the first Fulton County Jail was downtown at Butler and Decatur Streets and was called the Big Rock Jail. It was directly across the street from the city of Atlanta Police station.
Years later, a jail was constructed on Jefferson Street. In 1989, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office moved into a new facility on Rice Street. The building has 7 housing floors on one tower and 6 floors on the other. The federal courts have determined the capacity to be 2250 and that number was raised to 2500 in 2010.
Recently, a $59-million renovation project to make improvements to the Rice Street jail was completed. The project, concluded in late 2009 upon the 20th anniversary of the building. The improvements focused on the buildings.