First African-American DNR Law Enforcement officer retires

Recent historic events in the United States have made headlines
around the world, but history was also made in South Carolina only
a few short decades ago. Lt. Ulysses Flemming from Eastover in
Richland County was hired Jan. 26, 1970 as the first
African-American officer for the S.C. Department of Natural
Resources Law Enforcement.

“I was making pretty good money with another company at the time
when my uncle let me know about the job,” said the still lean and
sharp-eyed Flemming. “I took a big pay cut to begin working here,
but I thought I could make a difference and I really do love the
outdoors.” Flemming was one of 42 candidates to apply and the only
accepted for the position of S.C. Department of Natural Resources
(DNR) Law Enforcement officer.

Flemming says he had a smooth transition, “Everyone was
welcoming and I’ve made some life-long friends. It was like joining
a family where we all looked out for each other.” Still, he felt
like he had “to prove it could be done” and at one point didn’t
take a vacation day for over two years, “In those days you worked
seven days a week and more, but I was finally told to take a day
off and spend some time with my family.”

There were times, especially early on, that were trying, “I
remember back around 4th of July 1970 when I saw these young men
racing boats up and down the Congaree River. I got around to them
and said they were looking for an accident what with all the rocks
and limbs in the water. They were nice, but said they could handle
it.” It turned tragic soon thereafter, “A few days later they were
out and back at it. I was a piece away from them, but heard a loud
bang. And I knew something had happened. I got to one of them and
all he could say was his brother was dead. And he was right.”

Dedication is only one aspect that Flemming brought to the job
even after nearly 40 years in the field, “Ulysses brings a command
presence to any situation and he always treats people with
respect,” says DNR Captain Harvin Brock. “But he has a way of
talking to people that puts them immediately at ease. It’s a
combination that served him well.”

That air of trust had another benefit, “I never in my entire
time had to pull my gun. I unsnapped it only twice and both times
those folks stopped and thought about what they were doing and
calmed down.” Even when he did have to issue a citation or make an
arrest he was able to turn the situation friendly, “I was out one
day after a landowner told us about some fellows trespassing. We
caught them coming through the woods with duffel bags and paper
sacks loaded with fish and way over the limit.” He had a light
moment a few days later, “I saw them not too long after and they
laughed about how I got them good. One of them told me if he had
known I was coming he would have thrown away those paper sacks. I
said it’s good he didn’t ’cause I would have issued a ticket for

Lt. Flemming saw numerous changes over the years from the
increasing professionalism of DNR Law Enforcement to the downside
of the public growing less and less interested in outdoor
activities, “So many kids today are electronically overloaded with
computers, playing video games or what have you. I encourage
parents to get their kids into the woods.” But he is optimistic on
the public’s changing attitude, “More folks are concerned with
improving and preserving natural resources than ever before.”

South Carolina has less than 240 full-time Natural Resources
enforcement officers who serve and protect the state’s natural
resources by patrolling more than 31,000 square miles of the
state’s lands and inland waters. Officers also patrol 750 miles of
tidal shoreline and marine waters, to the state’s territorial
boundary 3 miles offshore and beyond on special federal

Throughout the state’s 46 counties, DNR officers oversee laws
and regulations pertaining to more than 400,000 registered boats,
some half-million licensed hunters and anglers and the
multi-million dollar coastal fishing industry. Officers enforce
Wildlife Management Area regulations and statewide litter laws,
instruct hunter and boating education, conduct statewide search and
rescue operations and perform community service.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by
making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s
natural resources and its people.

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