Augusta’s 1st black female investigator

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A female officer is about as common as a male one today, but in 1970s Augusta it was a rarity. Mary Alice Jones paved the way for other women in law enforcement locally by taking on a dangerous job unheard of African-American women.

An historic law enforcement career that lasted nearly three decades brought a lot of crime her way, but she remembers this one in particular.

“When we finally got in the house, he was deceased and his girlfriend was also. He had killed her first then he committed suicide.”

Mary Alice Jones. Augusta Police Department’s first black police officer saw her first murder-suicide shortly after being promoted to lieutenant. But before all that, she was a Warrenton Georgia girl with a dream.

“I wanted to be an FBI agent,” Mary tells me.

In 1973, her dream of being in law enforcement became reality.

“They had two white females and I guess they wanted to add some more officers and open it up to anyone who wanted to apply,” Mary said.

The opening meant Jones made history and she started by working undercover curbing drugs and alcohol.

“Club on Central Avenue called Squeaky’s. Most whites hung out there and I walked in there as a black female. It was something like, ‘can I help you ma’am?’  I go ‘no’. They had foosball machines at that time. So, I said no, I just wanted to play foosball.” Mary recalls.

Shoplifting patrol was next at places such as Sears Roebuck. All that came pretty easy for Jones, with a unique wardrobe as an officer.

“These miniskirts, black blazers that we had and we had these big .38 guns on our side with these miniskirts on.”

Jones worked her way to detective in 1975. She focused on rape cases and sexual crimes. By 1981,she was promoted to Lieutenant, working the vice and narcotics division as the first black female detective. But not everyone sang her praises. Not even her bosses.

“He said I believe in females being pregnant and barefoot at home,” Mary told me. “So, you will not be driving a police car as long as I’m your supervisor.”

And the hits kept coming.

“Got a call later on that night on Fenwick Street with a very large disorder with a hammer and a gun. No backup was dispatched.”

Backup came thanks to a nice co-worker, but he was written up for helping. Jones complained to the chief and he decided to ride with her. Her supervisor, a Lieutenant with the force, didn’t like that. So Jones went a step higher.

“At that time Pop Newman was the mayor of the city of Augusta.  I made this big news release. Frank Thomas worked for Channel 6.  He was a news reporter. I made this big news release that they were being prejudiced to female officers. So, Pop Newman called me and gave me his personal phone number and said in the future, you have any problems before you make a news release, just call me.”

Jones served as acting captain before her 1987 promotion to supervisor of detectives. Despite living a life with mostly guys, she’s single.

“Plus, I could shoot a little bit better than most of them. So, no one wanted a girlfriend that might shoot them,” Mary told me.

While making history, Jones worked hard and won the praises of the chief of police. But though all the tough work, she had one soft spot.

“Keep myself one step ahead of anyone else, like on the criminal side.  But, I could turn into a violent person if I went to a crime scene where a child had been molested or something bad had happened to them.”

Jones is retired from police work.  She now works as a car saleswoman in Evans. In her spare time she enjoys tennis, attends church and spends time with her Godson.

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