Ex-sheriff resigns state position after KKK costume photo resurfaces

Credit: Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Credit: Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

A ‘stupid’ mistake, former law enforcement chief says

Roger Garrison, the former sheriff of Cherokee County, resigned this week from the state judicial watchdog agency after a decades-old photo of him wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood resurfaced.

Garrison was appointed to the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s investigative panel on Aug. 19 by House Speaker David Ralston. On Thursday, when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked Ralston’s office if the speaker was aware of the past photo, Kaleb McMichen, a spokesman for Ralston, did not answer the question.

“Sheriff Garrison has resigned from the JQC,” McMichen responded, without elaborating. “The speaker will appoint a replacement as soon as practical.”

When reached Friday, Garrison declined to comment.

The photo, when it first surfaced in early 2012, received widespread media attention. After it became public, Garrison said he had no affiliation with the KKK and said he wore the costume to a Halloween party when he was in his early 20s.

“I don’t deny it wasn’t stupid, looking back now, but there again I say what 21- or 22-year-old in this world hasn’t made some stupid mistakes?” Garrison told Channel 2 Action News at the time.

“Everybody knows everything about my life,” he added. “I would just ask that they look at my honor and my integrity and the things we’ve done for this Sheriff’s Office.”

He said that he and a friend wore the KKK costumes to the party as characters in a scene from the movie “Blazing Saddles.”

Garrison also called the publication of the photo “purely political” because it surfaced when he was being challenged in the Republican primary. He won that race with 68% of the vote and faced no opposition in the general election.

Garrison retired five years ago after heading the Sheriff’s Office for more than 20 years.