Livingstone College

Audrey Cunningham – Salisbury City’s First Black Female Detective

SALISBURY — In 1973, Audrey Smith had graduated from Livingstone College with a degree in sociology destined to be a social worker, but that dream of helping Rowan County families didn’t quite materialize the way she envisioned.

A year after graduation, Smith worked at the Salisbury-Rowan Juvenile Bureau, where she looked into child cases, sort of a department of social services division. When the bureau disbanded, Smith and fellow bureau member Charlie Herion moved to the Salisbury Police Department and John Noble, another member, went to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

Smith automatically became a Salisbury Police investigator. The 26-year-old not only was an investigator, but she was the first black female investigator the department had ever had. There were other black officers before her, including Rayford Graham in the late 1940s, as well as Ernest Davis, and Price Brown in the 1960s and 1970s, but all had been male.

There was even Sarah Chunn, a black meter maid who worked in the early 1960s and 1970s, but none before Smith had ever been a lady cop and definitely not an investigator.

Smith, now Audrey Cunningham, recently reflected on her four years with the police department and what led her back to her alma mater.
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