On the official election day of November 3, 2020, history was made in Dillon County. For the first time in the history of Dillon County, an African- American was elected to a county-wide position. He was not only elected, but won by a wide margin. Although I am quite a bit older than Sheriff-Elect Douglas Pernell, I have known him nearly all his life. I knew both of his parents, especially his father, Mr. Preston Pernell, who was a friend of my father. Both of his parents would be truly proud if they were here to witness their son’s historical achievement.
Not only did Douglas become the first African-American to win a county-wide position as the duly-elected Sheriff of Dillon County, but he also set an example that all of us can learn from and follow in any area of personal ambition and pursuit. The average person (if they had been in Douglas’ shoes) would have given up after the first or second attempt to win the position that he would ultimately win. Invariably, Douglas and his wife, Cynthia (his most ardent and loyal supporter) have demonstrated the meaning of what it means to persevere against all odds.
I well remember his first attempt to capture the very elusive position of becoming the top elected law enforcement officer in the county after serving faithfully for many years under his mentor, Harold Grice (whom he served under as chief deputy for quite a few years).
When then Sheriff Harold Grice lost to Sheriff Major Hulon, Douglas took his first shot at running for the office. He gave it his best attempt, but fell short.
Defeating an incumbent is a very difficult and challenging task in the rural south because southerners, more than any other demography, are deeply loyal to the incumbent. Those who occupy an elected position in the south are “in like Flynn” and almost impossible to unseat. This was especially the case when Douglas Pernell tried in vain to defeat the incumbent sheriff three times.
Undaunted by the losses, Douglas hung in there against all odds. Perhaps one of his greatest challenges and disappointments was the fact that he knew that he was well qualified to serve as sheriff due to his many years of serving as a deputy with distinction and having spearheaded many investigations that led to the apprehension of criminals of various types. He knew that he had put his time in and had what it took to be the top elected law enforcement officer in the county. However, he also knew that as an African- American, what he was trying to achieve was going to take much patience and perseverance. Unlike all the others who had won the election to the sheriff’s position before him, he had more obstacles.
Douglas’ unwavering and undaunted perseverance to fulfill his dream and desire to be the Sheriff of Dillon County is what ultimately caused him to triumph against odds that were stacked against him. His is an example that all of us can learn from in our attempt to succeed in any area, whether it is political, professional, financial, or personal.
The old saying, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” captures and expresses the mindset of Sheriff-Elect Douglas Pernell. After being denied the victory for three consecutive attempts, the fourth time he finally hit pay dirt and will be sworn in in January as the first African American Sheriff in Dillon County.
I was told that Douglas had said the Lord told him that he would win this time. I, for one, believe that the good Lord did for certain say that to him and the proof is in its fulfillment.
Even if you did not vote for Douglas Pernell, he is now our duly-elected sheriff and will need all our support and prayers, if he is going to be successful in achieving his agenda to make our county as free from crime and violence as he and his team of deputies possibly can.
Once again, I want to emphasize that Douglas Pernell’s success story is an example to all of us of what we can accomplish if we will just hang in there and not quit.
Another one of my favorite sayings that encourages perseverance is this: “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.”
Since Douglas Pernell had a desire and dream to make history and become the first African-American Sheriff in the history of Dillon County, the following words from one of Langston Hughes’ most famous poems is very relevant to conclude with:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow