Squalls leaves behind lasting legacy
NATCHEZ — Walter Squalls Jr. made history as the state’s first black police officer, but his son remembers his late father for something much greater — his energy.
“He could come home from working all day at the police department, visit, barbecue for four or five hours and then take a bath and go to the radio station,” his youngest son O’Shea Squalls said. “He was like the Energizer bunny on steroids.”
Walter Squalls, 74, died Nov. 7, but his legacy of professionalism is still well known.
O’Shea said his father was like a politician every time they were in public because he always talked to everybody.
“(My dad) loved music, period,” O’Shea said. “He had a room just set up with music, CDs. I would get so many CDs in the mail from him that I couldn’t even listen to them all. He would call me up and say, ‘Hey son, I got you a package in the mail.’ I knew that meant there would be at least a minimum of five CDs in the bag. He loved to cut CDs.”
O’Shea said he loved to go to work with his dad, adding when he was a teenager, he enjoyed a few opportunities to ride in the police car with his dad. When they weren’t together, O’Shea said he also enjoyed listing to his dad’s voice on the police scanner and radio.
But Walter Squalls was also a mentor to dozens of lawmen he encountered through the years, including Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Jack Smith.
The 40-year law enforcement veteran rode with Squalls as his partner at the Natchez Police Department in the early 1970s for three years.
Smith, fresh out of the U.S. Army at the time, said his work with Squalls was invaluable because of Squalls’ knowledge of city codes and state laws.
“He was the first black officer for the State of Mississippi, first black captain for the State of Mississippi, but in the time I spent with him, none of that ever came into the conversation,” Smith said. “I didn’t find out about that until sometime later. His mindset was teaching me how to communicate with the public and how to enforce the law fairly across the board. That was the end.”
Squalls joined the NPD in 1965. He earned the rank of lieutenant in 1972 and captain in 1979.
Former Natchez mayor Tony Byrne said it would have been hard to pick a better person then Squalls to break the color line.
“He knew an awful lot of people in the white community that liked him,” Byrne said. “It wasn’t easy for him when he went on the force because there were still some tough old timers that just didn’t want any blacks under any conditions. I thought Walter walked that line pretty well.”
Squalls was also the first black disc jockey for WMIS radio, where he worked for more than 40 years.
Beyond professional responsibilities, Squalls, who was a U.S. Navy veteran, also organized the first Bicycle Rodeo for young people and the first Neighborhood Watch program in the area.
Funeral services for Squalls start at 11 a.m. today at Pilgrim Baptist Church. Burial will follow at the Natchez National Cemetery.
He is survived by his wife, four sons and two daughters.