Racial Tension Again Tests [Jasper] Texas Town
Despite the racial nature of the crime, Pearson says he never experienced overt racism while living in Jasper, a small town of about 7,500 people a 2½-hour drive from Houston. He and his wife, Sandra, who is white, married in Jasper, and they got along with everyone, blacks and whites.
But the couple say that changed after Pearson was hired as interim police chief, a position that became permanent two months later, in April 2011.
From that moment, Pearson says, the trouble began.
Despite being the town’s first black police chief, Pearson was never given the traditional public swearing-in ceremony.
“They wanted to wait until things calmed down,” he said.
But things did not calm down, and what seemed like a simple hire has turned Jasper upside down.
Pearson was hired by a city council composed of four black members and one white member. The vote divided along racial lines: the blacks voted in favor, and the white council member voted against.
The problem was compounded when Jasper Mayor Mike Lout, who is white, backed a different candidate - an 18-year veteran of the Jasper police force.