Leonardtown, MD- On April 1, 2022, Sheriff Tim Cameron and the St. Mary’s County Office of the Sheriff solemnly mark the one-year anniversary of Sheriff Joseph Lee Somerville Sr.’s passing.
Sheriff Somerville’s terms in office from 1977 to 1982 were historic in St. Mary’s County and in Maryland. A native of Loveville, Somerville was St. Mary’s County’s first black sheriff’s deputy when he joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1966.
In 1977, Somerville became both the first black sheriff in St. Mary’s County and in the state of Maryland when he was appointed by the governor to complete the previous sheriff’s term. Sheriff Somerville went on to win the 1978 election for St. Mary’s County Sheriff, which then made him the first elected black sheriff in St. Mary’s County and in Maryland as well.
At the time of the 1978 election, Sheriff Somerville was only the sixth black sheriff in the entire United States, according to “America’s First, A History of America’s Oldest Continuously Operating Sheriff’s Office.
Two of his sons — Kevin Somerville and Joseph Lee Somerville Jr. — both went on to serve long and proud careers as deputies with the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Somerville died on April 1, 2021, at the age of 81.