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Virginia Sheriffs' Institute
Supporting Virginia’s Sheriffs & Deputies

The Newport News Public Library held its We Stand for Justice: A Salute to African American Heroes of Newport News on Saturday, February 24. Sheriff Gabe Morgan and other leaders of the Newport News Sheriff’s Office were honored to be part this event in which the city paid tribute to Lillie B. Knight, the agency’s first Black deputy sheriff. Knight’s devotion to the job and to Newport News exemplifies Sheriff Morgan’s motto for his agency: Committed to Making a Difference. 

In the video tribute to Mrs. Knight, the audience learned that she was hired as a guard for the Newport News jail in 1969, a few months before Virginia ended racial segregation in jails. She worked her way up to become chief corrections officer and was officially deputized by the sheriff’s department in 1976. She lived in the community she served – a pioneer in what today is called community policing. People knew Deputy Knight and recognized her face. Knight gained a reputation for decency and compassion and treated those she served warrants to with respect. She changed the face of the sheriff’s office. 

Mrs. Knight retired in 1996 after nearly 3 decades of service in the department. She passed away in November 2019 at age 84. Her daughter, Theresa, and other family members attended the ceremony.

The library system’s annual event during Black History Month honors those whose activism has produced an enduring historical legacy and who have contributed to the cause of social justice in Newport News.