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Black sheriff's election is historic for Gadsden

Morris Young becomes the first of his race since Reconstruction to win that office in Florida's only black-majority county

By Associated Press
Published November 6, 2004

QUINCY - A recount Friday gave Florida's only majority-black county its first black sheriff since Reconstruction.

Morris Young, who had a 70-vote lead going into the machine recount, defeated Chief Deputy Ed Spooner by 115 votes out of more than 20,600 cast, ending an election tinged by past complaints of racism.

The county canvassing board officially declared Young the winner late Friday.

Young said one of his first jobs as sheriff would be to try to unite the racially divided county and convince supporters of Spooner, who is white, that he can do the job.

"The main thing is earning their respect," Young said. "I've got to show them Morris Young is capable."

Young, Spooner and their attorneys looked on during the hourslong recount in which Gadsden elections officials fed ballots back through counting machines. Supporters of Young were gathered on the sidewalk outside.

Young, a registered Democrat, ran as an independent. Spooner is a Democrat.

While Young had expressed confidence in the machine recount, a few supporters were distrustful in a county where black people, while in the majority, have long complained about the power structure and racism.

"As sheriff I want to change that," said Young, a school resource officer with the Sheriff's Office who was hired six years ago by Spooner. Both Young and Spooner earlier Friday called the recount fair and expressed hope it would heal some divisions.

"This whole process just validates the votes," Spooner said. "It's good for both sides."

Sheriff W.A. Woodham is retiring after more than 30 years in office.

[Last modified November 6, 2004, 00:56:27]

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