Rev. Charles Austin, Sr., was the first African-American chief of police in Columbia, South Carolina.
Austin’s parents were immensely influential in his early development as a child. His father instilled in him patience, while his mother instilled in him values and positive self-esteem. Austin’s first job was with John Henry Meekins, who taught him the value of hard labor.
Austin earned $1 each week by emptying trash cans at a nearby funeral home. He’d also accompany Meekins to graveyards. Meekins would lower Austin into the graves and take measurements.
Austin earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from South Carolina State University and his master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of South Carolina in 1985. Austin worked at the State Law Enforcement Division, South Carolina State University, and was the Deputy Chief of Police in Chatham County, Georgia after finishing his education.
He was Columbia’s first African-American police chief from 1990 until 2001, when he became the city’s first Assistant City Manager and Commissioner of Public Safety.
Austin served on the Erskine College board of trustees after being elected by the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church to that post. In 2001, he obtained his Master of Divinity degree.
Austin was involved in a variety of community activities and has received numerous honors and recognition. His later years were spent working in the ministry.