Chatham County Sheriff, John T. Wilcher, has joined a extensive list of fighters for LGBTQ equality after being honored with the 2019 Champion for Equality Award. The announcement came at the Georgia Equality 2019 Legislative Preview on January 12.
“It’s an honor for them to do that. I didn’t expect it,” said Sheriff Wilcher. “I’ve lived here all my life in this community, and I’m in my 44th year with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office and take people at their heart. I don’t care what color they are, what religion they are or what their social activities are.”
Wilcher’s been a member of the sheriff’s office for more than 40 years where he’s seen extensive change. He and his staff have been able to protect the LGBTQ community not only across the county but also behind bars.
“We’ve run into the transgender part. We’ve made it so we can house them safely when they commit a crime,” he said.
He always tells the story about a deputy that worked under his watch when he was a lieutenant at the sheriff’s office. The former army soldier came to work for Wilcher in the early ’90s, but one day, then-lieutenant Wilcher got a knock at his door.
“Richard came to my door one day and said he needed to talk to me about something. I told him to come in,” said Wilcher. “He told me he was gay and I said, “Your point is? Get your ass out of my office and get back to work.” His deputy went on to reveal he was HIV positive. Wilcher’s responded once again, “Your point is? Get your ass out of my office and get back to work.”
Wilcher sets aside one Saturday each year for a massive gathering with the LGBTQ community at his home. He cooks for them and makes sure they know he’s an ally whenever they’re in need.
“The transparency with me in the LGBTQ community. It’s been excellent. I have an open door policy. People can come in and talk to me, and don’t need to schedule a meeting,” he said. “I love my job; I love the people here.”