LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – An Alabama Law Enforcement icon is celebrating 50 years of service to the community with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Major Cary Torbert was the first African American hired as a Lee County Deputy Sheriff on October 1st, 1971. Half a century later, Torbert is one of the most respected law enforcement officials in the state and southeast.
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones’ admiration for Major Torbert is evident. Jones has known Torbert since he began working with the Sheriff’s Office as a student in 1975. The bond has grown between the two men into a trusted relationship akin to family.
“He was just like one of my sons when he first started. I am very proud of that young man, as I call him, ” said Major Torbert about Sheriff Jones.
Sheriff Jones says Major Torbert has served as a mentor, friend, and father figure during his law enforcement career. In addition, Jones admires Torbert’s law enforcement acumen.
“He has probably forgotten more about the operation of the sheriff’s office and detention than most of us will ever hope to know. Anything positive you can say would apply to Major Torbert. I would not be where I am today without the influence of Major Cary Torbert. Period,” said Sheriff Jay Jones
October 1st, 1971, Cary Torbert became Lee County’s first African American deputy. He was 23-years-old and had just gotten out of the service after being stationed in Germany as a military police officer.
“I was supposed to go into communications in the military but became a military police officer. Then, I started falling in love with law enforcement, and I think that was the way God intended for it to be,” said Torbert.
Torbert worked long hours when he first began as a patrol deputy. Lee County was one of the few wet counties, so he spent many late hours monitoring the bars and nightclubs. He investigated crimes, worked in the court system and jail. He did it all.
“He loves this community. He loves Lee County, and he’s always served the people here with integrity. His heart has always been in the right place. I have never met anyone that didn’t like him or respect him, ” said Sheriff Jay Jones.
Torbert excelled, especially in detention. He is known to be an excellent communicator and problem solver. He oversaw three jail expansions as the county continued to grow.
“In my 52 years, including the two in the service, I never had to draw my weapon and fire it at anybody. I have been able to talk to them and understand why they are frustrated. With God at my back a lot of time, we were able to deescalate situations,” said Torbert.
At 73, Major Torbert now works part-time with the Sheriff’s Office. Torbert tried to retire a few years ago, but it never seemed right. Plus, Sheriff Jones told Torbert his expertise was needed as a trusted advisor and mentor.
Torbert’s greatest love, other than law enforcement and his community, is his close-knit family. He’s been married to his wife for 50 years. Together, they have three children and several grandchildren. Torbert, who is deeply spiritual, beams with pride when discussing his family. He’s been a father figure for so many, including inmates he’s worked with over the years. A conversation with Major Torbert can be transformative, especially for a person needing a correction in life.
“I see people on the streets now that gave me problems in the jail, and they say, Major, I thank you for what you did for me. I needed that talk you gave me. I am a better man for it. I am going to try and change people’s lives. If people would understand, especially young folks, would understand you can’t take a bullet back, but you can sit down talk through any problem you have,” said Torbert.
Major Torbert has an open-door policy. If you have a problem, he’s there to discuss it with you. He is a living encyclopedia of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. He knows the good times, and he honors the bad. He remembers the murder of Deputy James Anderson, who was killed in the line of duty like it was yesterday. He mourns the recent loss of 77-year old Freddie Rowell, who recently passed away from COVID-19. He reminds us all; life is to be cherished.
“We need to remind some people life is precious, they only get one chance, and they need to take those chances and make them good,” said Torbert.
Torbert took his chance and made history. He raised a family. He gave selflessly to his community and helped steer hundreds, if not thousands of friends and strangers onto the right path. Major Cary Torbert is a law enforcement icon and a community hero.