History will remember Frank Anderson as a number of things — the first Black Sheriff of Marion County, a U.S. Marshal and the first Black Deputy Sheriff to patrol the Indianapolis streets.
To Henry Hull, he was dad.
“My dad was incredible in so many ways,” Hull said from the pulpit of the Scottish Rite Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis.
Hull on Wednesday shared his favorite characteristics of his dad surrounded by dozens of family members and law enforcement officers.
Anderson, 83, died April 30. His friends, family and former colleagues recalled memories of him during his funeral at the gothic cathedral. In sharing their stories, they painted a picture of a multi-faceted public servant.
Anderson was born as a “country boy,” as his son described, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
After serving in the U.S. Navy, he came to Indianapolis to join the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in 1961. He became the first Black deputy in the Road Patrol division.
His accomplishments in local law enforcement continued from there, in which he served as a U.S. Marshal for 23 years, then became elected as Marion County’s first Black Sheriff in 2002 and again in 2006. The Indianapolis Star at the time reported he earned 66% of the vote in the first election.
Mayor Joe Hogsett in his tribute to Anderson made note of the outcome.
“Not only does it show just how many people liked Frank Anderson, but it’s important to realize he did this against the political headwinds,” Hogsett said. A Democrat candidate as a Sheriff in Marion County at the time, Hogsett explained, was never “a shoo-in.”
Previous coverage on the former sheriff:Frank J. Anderson, former US Marshal and Marion County’s first Black sheriff, has died
Anderson’s well-documented career and friendliness was acknowledged by many of the speakers at his funeral, including Ruby Bridges, most known as one of the first Black students to integrate public schools in 1960. Federal marshals escorted her past threatening crowds into an elementary school in New Orleans after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.
Bridges called Anderson a “brother.”
In a tribute that drew gasps from the crowd, the county’s current Sheriff shared memories that further underscored Anderson’s achievements.
“One must understand why he could’ve so easily gone the other way in life,” Sheriff Kerry Forestal said.
Forestal recalled Anderson’s memory of going to a dentist as a young man in the U.S. Navy to check on a tooth that was recently pulled. The white dentist proceeded to do so without a numbing agent. When Anderson protested, he was told by the dentist that he’d be charged with assaulting an officer if he said another word.
Anderson encountered another ugly example of racism later in his U.S. Navy career in the back of a taxi with fellow sailors in the South, Forestal said. A police officer pulled the car over and told them that taxis were not allowed to transport people of different races. Anderson was forced to walk to his destination in full uniform.
“Frank Anderson had every reason to feel hate and discontent while serving his country,” Forestal concluded. “But Frank didn’t become embittered. Instead, it sparked in him an unquenchable thirst to make things right. To be the change he wanted to see in the world.”
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Forestal and his colleagues said that Anderson as a leader never had a heavy hand. Rather, he was firm, but always peaceful.
“He championed the notion that power must have a purpose beyond just the exercise of power,” Forestal said. “That just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
U.S. Judge Sarah Evans Barker on Wednesday said Anderson’s inclination to peace was evident during the seizure of the Baptist Temple in 2001 that gained national attention. The church owed more than $6 million in back taxes.
Anderson in an interview with the Washington Post at the time called the seizure “the most difficult task of his 37-year career in law enforcement.” Yet he and the other law enforcement officials who entered the church to remove the members deliberately “dressed down” in khakis and windbreakers to avoid aggressive action and “make it as least threatening as we possibly could.”
Barker said Anderson showed nothing but “sheer courage” that day as he walked into the building unarmed.
“The government sometimes did it the hard way. Frank knew how to do it the simple, peaceful way,” she said.
Hogsett encouraged everyone in the crowd to follow Anderson’s example.
“We are fortunate that Frank led such a multi-faceted life because that means that we can emulate him in so many different ways,” Hogsett said. “Frank Anderson – Amen.”
Contact IndyStar reporter Sarah Nelson at 317-503-7514 or email@example.com