FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) — Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton will officially retire next week after more than 50 years in law enforcement.
His long career has been full of unique cases — capped off by one of the biggest manhunts in Alabama history.
“50 years has gone by fast,” Singleton told News 19. “You know it doesn’t seem like it’s been 50 years. I remember that first night like it was yesterday.”
Singleton said when he was a child he had two dream jobs — becoming a police officer and becoming a professional wrestler — and that’s exactly what he did. He started his policing career in the early 1970s, but on the weekends, he was known as Doctor Death.
“That was the other childhood dream I had,” he said. “I always wanted to be a cop and a wrestler, and I got the unique privilege of getting to do both.”
However, that’s only the beginning of Singleton’s legacy.
On his first stint with the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), Singleton says he remembers working at a local high school football game in nearly 100-degree heat. From that moment on, he strived to become the best officer he could be.
After just five years with the department, Singleton launched his first campaign for sheriff.
“I worked here for about five years total [and] ran for sheriff when I was 26 years old like I thought I was qualified,” Singleton commented.
Despite losing his first bid for sheriff, Singleton went on to have a career like none other. He became an officer with the Florence Police Department, where he served as chief for 16 years. That’s also where he met his friend and successor, Sheriff-elect Joe Hamilton.
Since Singleton became sheriff in 2015, Hamilton has been part of his administration. Now, Hamilton says he’s grateful to continue carrying the torch.
“He’s done great things for the department and the community… we’re very thankful for his time as sheriff, and we’re going to wish him well on his retirement,” Hamilton said.
It’s difficult for Sheriff Singleton to talk about his career without also talking about one of the biggest cases in state history — the escape of Casey White. It’s a mark on his legacy that won’t be forgotten anytime soon — but he says he’s proud of the way he and his team responded.
“In this job, you just have to take what comes at you,” Singleton explained. “You know, when you’re the administrator, when you’re the sheriff, when you’re the chief of police, you can’t control the hand you’re played. You just have to play the hand you’re dealt.”
When you talk to the people working in the sheriff’s office, everyone has tremendous respect for the program Singleton built. They credit his positive attitude, work ethic, and ability to lead.
“I’ve always been one to sort of look at what we can do today that will make things better for tomorrow,” he said.
To show their appreciation, the sheriff’s office employees gave Singleton one final gift. It’s something he has tried to get his entire life — a championship belt.