US Army Reserve's 1st Black Lieutenant General Retires from Military

May 3, 2024
US Army Reserve's 1st Black Lieutenant General Retires from Military

A.C. Roper, the former police chief in Birmingham, Alabama, is retiring after 42 years of service in the military.

Roper, who became the first Black person to achieve the rank of U.S Army Reserve lieutenant general, served simultaneously in the military and in civil law enforcement for more than three decades.

“Although I’ve served the last six years on active duty, the Army Reserve was a perfect fit since it allowed me the flexibility to pursue my civilian law enforcement career,” Roper said.

“However, I must admit I had absolutely no idea I would become the first African American to ever achieve the rank of Lieutenant General in its history. I appreciate how our younger service members find that to be inspirational.”

As a civilian, Roper served in law enforcement for more than 33 years at the Hoover Police Department and then the Birmingham Police Department, where he was named chief in 2007.

He announced in November 2017 he would retire following the election of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who asked all department heads to reapply for their positions.

Roper said after much prayer, he and his family decided he would not reapply. He left the job officially in April 2018.

In 2021, it was announced that then-Maj. General Roper would be promoted to lieutenant general, which put him as the deputy commander of the United States Northern Command, United States Element, North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

Though initially a two-year assignment, Roper was asked to stay on a third year and, with the support of his wife Edith, accepted.

He helped lead U.S. Northern Command in anticipating, preparing, and responding to threats against North America and within Northern Command’s assigned area of responsibility; and provide oversight of U.S. Northern Command’s Defense Support to Civil Authorities.

“This strategic environment is the most challenging I’ve witnessed in my career,” Roper said. “Competitors intend to hold the U.S. and Canada at risk in all domains and from all vectors, including cyber and space.”

“Serving in these critical roles of national defense has been the dream of a lifetime,” he said. “Reflecting back on my retirement from the Birmingham Police Department, who would have thought my journey would take me to the Pentagon and beyond and then culminate as a key leader responsible for defending the entire nation.”

During his tenure, those under his command responded to a range of missions and challenges including COVID, the Chinese high-altitude balloon and operations supporting over 80,000 Afghan evacuees.

“Whether it’s public safety or national defense, at the end of the day it’s about authentic leadership, teamwork, and accountability,” he said.

Roper, earlier in his military career, was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield, and Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During Joint Task Force Andrew, he supported hurricane relief operations in southern Florida.

He was commissioned in 1983 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham before going on to earn a Master of Science from the University of Alabama, and a Master in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

He is a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy, the FBI National Executive Institute, and also served as an adjunct professor of criminal justice. He specialized in protecting critical infrastructure and served on the Executive Board of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

“One thing is for certain – we enlist soldiers, but we reenlist families,” he said. “The support of my lovely wife, Edith and our two daughters has been critically important for any success in my life.”

“Edith has been the foundation that held our family together through multiple high stress assignments in law enforcement and the military,” he said. “The most emotional parts of the retirement ceremony revolved around my family, especially receiving my ‘final salute’ from our oldest daughter, Krystle, who is an active duty Army captain.”

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell on Wednesday honored Roper on the House Floor.

“I got to know Lt. General Roper during his time as the chief of police for the Birmingham Police Department,” Sewell said. “I was immediately impressed by his firm yet compassionate leadership style that commanded the respect of his fellow officers and endeared him to the Birmingham community.”

“Lt. General Roper’s reputation has always been one of great purpose and great passion,” she said. “He is an honorable man, guided by an abiding faith in God and a love of country.”

Roper and his wife will return to Alabama next week.

“I have such a passion for leadership development, corporate governance and organizational excellence so I’m excited about God’s plan for the future and what I’m referring to as ‘Chapter 3′ of the Roper story,” he said. “I believe the best is yet to come.”

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