Conrad L. Raiford
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|Conrad L. Raiford|
|Born||Conrad Laurel Raiford
December 27, 1907
Greensboro, North Carolina U.S.
|Died||May 20, 2002
Greensboro, North Carolina
In 1946, Raiford was one of only six black men recruited by a then all white Greensboro Police Department. Although the tall and muscular man was proud to be a pioneering member of law enforcement, Raiford resented the way he and his fellow black officers were treated in a city that was then one of the more populated incorporated areas in the Tarheel state. The officers were not allowed to arrest anyone outside their ethnicity.
"I had to wear rejects," Raiford told his daughter, Sharon Crews during an interview for ABC News. "I had to wear pants another officer had been wearing for two years. They were shiny. They didn't fit."  Things were not any better in the North and Midwest.
"They even built a second bathroom down in the cold and rat-infested basement of city hall because we were considered less than human, said Raiford. "It took a special man to take that."
Life for America's first black police officers was not easy. For Raiford, the tension and humiliation became too much to bear. After a five-year tour of duty, Raiford traded his badge for a rundown schoolhouse for black children located in a remote area of Guilford County called Goodwill. A defunct book titled "Hiawatha, the Warrior," was compulsory reading for all of the first through twelfth graders he taught.
Raiford went on to become a human rights activist, a Greensboro City Council member, Commissioner of the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department and the North Carolina Goodwill Ambassador for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany.
In 1977, Greensboro city officials honored Raiford by naming the Warnersville Recreation Center swimming pool after him.
In 1937, Raiford became one of Greensboro's first African-American certified lifeguards. A champion swimmer, Raiford was a swim instructor at the Hayes Taylor Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).
When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Raiford was authorized to aid military personnel and engage in voluntary rescue missions for the American Red Cross.[not in citation given]
Raiford was a key player during the turbulent civil rights movement of the 1960s by becoming one of Greensboro's two African-American bail bondsmen. Raiford freed then A&T student body president Jesse Jackson after Jackson's first arrest following a protest march in 1963. Jackson and other activists, like Ezelle Blair and Joseph McNeil, committed to memory Raiford's home phone number.
In the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, the State of North Carolina enforced a strict curfew that made it illegal for all civilians to leave their homes after 8:00 p.m.
On the evening of April 9, 1968, Raiford dropped off a couple of just-freed A&T students and was returning home when he violated the curfew. Raiford, now age 61, said he glanced at his watch, quietly exited his car, sensing something was not right. Raiford said he attempted to continue stealthily on foot, hoping the darkness of a neighborhood park would protect him.
Once he cleared the brush, Raiford said he was ambushed by four angry police officers who did not care that Raiford was a recognized lawman. Raiford was arrested; he spent the night behind bars.
Raiford attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T), where he lettered in football, track, baseball and swimming. Raiford graduated in 1936 with a bachelor of science degree in biology and was inducted into A&T's Sports Hall of Fame in 1971.
Raiford and elementary school teacher Myrtle Mary Frances Wright were married for 54 years. They had four children: Conrad Eugene, Janice Artelia, Sharon Daisy and Lisa Rozenia.
- : News-Record.com : Greensboro, North Carolina
- "NOTED ATHLETE, 1926 GRADUATE OF A&T DIES," Greensboro News & Record, May 22, 2002, by Jim Schlosser
- "BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS COME A LONG WAY," Greensboro News & Record, February 3, 1993, by Kelly Simmons
- "AN UNROMANTIC TIME IN SPORT RECALLING THE PAIN OF PLAYING IN THE NEGRO LEAGUES," Greensboro News & Record, September 22, 1994, by Tom Steadman
- American Red Cross - Red Cross History
- "Jesse Jackson - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31.