Norman Randall still remembers the laughter.
It stopped completely as the African-American officer walked into the Annapolis Police Department locker room for his first roll call in 1962. A room full of white officers in the recently desegregated department stared silently at him.
Last night, Randall walked into another room full of people in Annapolis - black and white - celebrating the desegregation of the city's police department and honoring the 86 African-American officers who have served on the force to date.
The first two black officers - Andrew L. Turner and George LeVerett - were hired in 1960, a moment that some regard as a major turning point in the desegregation of the city.
"After that, it was restaurants and theaters," said Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat. "It made us proud to be Americans, to be treated as human beings."
The officers say they are not bitter about the initial indignities they endured. Black officers were assigned only to the black section of the city - what was then the 4th Ward. They weren't allowed to go downtown beyond Church Circle. They could not drive police cars.
They are proud those boundaries no longer exist. But it didn't happen all at once.
On Randall's first day in 1962, "everyone just turned and looked at me for a minute," he said. "No one said anything. Then, they just started laughing and talking again."
One white officer, John Goddard, introduced himself to Randall and said, "`Hey, buddy, I'll teach you everything I know.' And just like that, we became like this," Randall said, crossing his fingers together.
Randall and his mentor were on separate patrols. But Randall and others remember how eventually white and black officers would become partners as the Police Department and Annapolis itself were transformed by the civil rights movement.
One memory: Randall was on stand-by alert one night in 1968 when parts of Baltimore and other cities burned during rioting. A group of about 15 young people marched on downtown Annapolis, Randall said. "We followed them. But nothing bad happened."
Randall distinctly recalls one of the peaceful protesters - a young Carl O. Snowden, who became a civil rights activist, a city alderman and is now a member of Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens' Cabinet.
Last night, Snowden delivered the keynote address for the ceremony at Stanton Community Center, "Lest We Forget."
"There's no other law enforcement agency that has made such progress as it relates to diversity," said Snowden, one of the organizers of the event.
The celebration "really speaks to the changes, the improvements," said Capt. Gary S. Simpson, still on the force after 30 years, "because ... the community is choosing to recognize you."
Many who celebrated the desegregation of the Police Department would never have imagined that today there would be a black chief of police and 36 minority officers on the 114-member force.
George Phelps Jr. remembers practically being kicked out of the chief's office in the late 1950s when he applied. Though he had served as an Army military police officer, Phelps said, he was told no black would serve as an Annapolis officer.
"I'll never forget that day," said Phelps, who went on to become the first black law enforcement officer in Anne Arundel County as a deputy sheriff hired by Joseph W. Alton Jr.
"Look how far we've come ... to where you have a black chief, officers who would become captains and majors," said Phelps, 74. "They are living testaments to what can happen. It brings tears to your eyes. Every man, woman and child should rejoice."
Not everyone would live to see the day Chief Joseph S. Johnson took office in 1994. Not all honored last night would live to receive their citations from Owens, Mayor Dean L. Johnson, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
"He would have been so proud," Marjorie Gibson, 79, said of her husband, Ralph, who was a city officer from 1962 to 1965 after he had served 22 years in the Army, earning honors for his tours of duty in World War II and the Korean War. He died in June.
Many of the first officers say they didn't feel like pioneers then - even James H. Colbert, the city's first black sergeant, lieutenant, captain and head of the detective bureau before he retired in 1981. He is a District Court commissioner now - a position he has held for 19 years.
His brother, Phillip Colbert, was honored last night for his year of service with the Police Department. He was the first black warden in the county.
At 21, Phillip Colbert was running the county jail. When the Freedom Riders came through Annapolis in November 1961, he found out later that the college students arrested at the Bladen Street bus station didn't believe he was warden because it was so rare for a young black person to hold such a high position.
Phillip Colbert went on to spend 35 years with the state's Department of Juvenile Justice.
Now 62, he remembers the first time black officers were seen driving police cars - more than five years after the first officers were hired.
Randall was the first allowed to drive. "One Sunday, three drivers called in sick. The sergeant didn't know what to do," Randall said. The chief was called at home, and Randall was assigned to drive. "It was a big shock," Randall said. "After that, I drove regularly."
Longtime activists hope a generation that has no firsthand memories of the civil rights movement will be inspired by the pioneers.
Still called "Major Randall" by everyone who knows him, the easygoing, quick-to-smile Randall was asked to serve as a community relations liaison even after he retired in 1994.
In a more diverse, cohesive department and city, it was his laughter they wanted to hear.