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Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts, Virginia's longest-serving sheriff, dies

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Posted at 12:17 PM, Dec 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-27 16:00:12-05

The Hampton Sheriff's Office announced that Sheriff B.J. Roberts died Saturday after serving as Hampton's sheriff for 28 years.

According to the sheriff's office, he died "peacefully at his home" after celebrating Christmas Day with his family.

Roberts announced earlier in December that he planned to retire from the position on January 8, 2021. He was Virginia's longest-serving sheriff, and had nearly 50 years of combined law enforcement service on the Peninsula.

He was elected as Hampton's first African-American constitutional officer and sheriff in 1992, and was re-elected to serve six terms.

The Hampton Sheriff's Office released the following statement on Roberts' passing:

"It is with deep sadness that the Hampton Sheriff’s Office releases that our beloved leader, Sheriff B.J. Roberts, transitioned peacefully at his home the morning of December 26 after celebrating Christmas Day with his family.

"Under Roberts’ leadership, the Hampton Sheriff’s Office demonstrated a Commitment to Excellence. In 2009 the office was awarded the coveted Nationally Accredited Triple Crown award, achieving simultaneous accreditation from the American Correctional Association, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.

"In June of 2010, Sheriff Roberts was sworn in as the 69th president of the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA). Roberts’ swearing in as president of NSA marked the first and only African-American in the 70 year history of the organization to preside over its 18,990 members.

"Sheriff Roberts announced earlier this month his plans to retire from the position on January 8, 2021. Roberts served as Sheriff of Hampton for 28 years and was Virginia’s longest serving Sheriff. B.J. Roberts had nearly 50 years of combined dedicated law enforcement service on the Peninsula.

"Roberts was first elected as Sheriff of Hampton in 1992 and was re-elected to serve six terms."

NAACP Hampton Branch President Gaylene Kanoyton released the following statement:

"It is with great sadness to hear of the passing of Sheriff BJ Roberts. Sheriff Robert's was a Hampton Branch NAACP Life member and a leader in our community. Being the first Black Hampton Sheriff and President of the National Sheriffs' Association, Sheriff Robert's led the way for other people of color to follow. He will be sorely missed."

Newport News Mayor McKinley Price released the following statement via Twitter:

"I am saddened to hear of the passing of Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts. Sheriff Roberts made history as Virginia’s longest serving sheriff and as the first African American to serve as president of the National Sheriffs Association.

"While Sheriff Roberts spent the majority of his career in Hampton, people around the Peninsula, Commonwealth and nation benefited from his selfless public service. He will be remembered for his advocacy and tireless quest for equal justice and the protection of human rights.

"Sheriff Roberts believed people aren’t defined by their mistakes, and dedicated his life to uplifting and investing in others. I will miss my dear friend and golf partner."

Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-3) also released a statement:

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts. Sheriff Roberts served our community for decades in law enforcement, first as a patrolman with the Newport News Police Department, then rising through the ranks of the Hampton University Campus Police to become the University’s Director of Police and Public Safety, and for the last 28 years as Hampton’s sheriff. His 1992 election as sheriff was trailblazing as he became the first African American constitutional officer elected in Hampton’s history. He continued to break barriers when he was elected in 2010 to serve as the first African American president of the National Sheriff’s Association. Sheriff Roberts was committed to making our criminal justice system fairer and improving police-community relations. His passing is a tremendous loss for Hampton and the entire Commonwealth. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, the deputies and staff of the Hampton Sheriff’s Office, and all those positively impacted by his remarkable life.”

Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle released a statement:

“In his 28 years of service, Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts set the standard that elected officials should follow. He always put the safety of his community first and he made an indelible impact on Hampton Roads and, as former president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, on law enforcement nationwide. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Thank you, Sheriff Roberts.”

This is a developing story.