Headed by a woman for the first time in its 175-year history, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office took time this week to remember a trailblazer who helped make that achievement possible: Lolita Boyd, the county’s first female deputy.
Known as “Lo,” Deputy Boyd was born in June 1921 in Clatskanie, but grew up in the big city of Chicago, where she became an accomplished violinist and even had the honor of playing a 16th century Amati violin as a young girl.
During World War II, she joined the ranks of the “Rosie the Riveters,” working as a welder building “victory ships” in the yards of Richmond, Calif. She moved to Oregon City after the war — and grew so fond of the community that she vowed to never move again.
She began her career with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 7, 1957, when it was under the leadership of the legendary Joe Shobe, whose career spanned four decades and was “synonymous with law enforcement in Clackamas County,” according to his obituary in 1985.
Boyd was first hired as a teletype operator and dispatcher, but soon began working with investigators and detectives. She was the first woman ever to be issued a deputy’s uniform in Clackamas County.
A 1959 story in The Oregonian recorded this remarkable snapshot of what life was like for her in those early days: “‘Deputy Boyd,’ she said in a snappy answer to a telephone’s ring and explained aside: ‘I say deputy Boyd because so many people calling hear my voice and ask to speak to a deputy. Then the argument begins.'”
The story included some of the casual sexism of the day, like describing Boyd as “blond, five feet four inches tall, 120 pounds and anything but bad for morale,” giving her title as “policeman (woman)” and referring to her as “Ricky Boyd’s mother” — twice — before providing her actual name (Ricky was her then-9-year-old son), but it nonetheless underscores how extraordinary her position was at the time.
Though her primary duties were as a relief shift dispatcher, she also accompanied deputies on some calls, including arrests — especially those involving juvenile girls.
And, at times, she even escorted minor female defendants at high-profile trials — like that of Carlene Cover, a Milwaukie 16-year-old accused (and later acquitted) of strangling her mother to death following a dispute.
Deputy Boyd (first photo, top right) was hired on July 1, 1957 and retired on Dec. 30, 1981. She passed away in 2013.
— Clackamas Sheriff (@ClackCoSheriff) March 24, 2021
Boyd even carried a service revolver — and knew how to use it.
“Six weeks training got me a marksmanship rating,” she told The Oregonian, but added, “I don’t shoot my pistol — I just carry it.”
She retired on Dec. 30, 1981, after 24 years of loyal service.
“She was loved by many and always brought a wonderful sense of liveliness to every room she entered,” her obituary later remembered. “She was well-known for her generous, loving nature, sense of humor and quick wit.”
The sheriff’s office was more succinct, but no less appreciative, in its remembrance on Twitter Wednesday: “Deputy Boyd paved the way for women to serve in every rank and division within the Sheriff’s Office — including the office of sheriff.”
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