Former Jasper Police Chief Rodney Pearson has agreed to an $831,000 settlement in a federal discrimination lawsuit he brought against the East Texas town and its mayor after his 2012 firing, according to a statement issued by his lawyers Thursday.
Pearson became Jasper’s first black police chief in 2011. The landmark was of special significance in the town where the brutal hate crime killing of James Byrd Jr. took place in 1998. But Pearson’s tenure brought intense public feuding that awakened bitter racial tensions.
Appointed three years ago by a majority black city council, Pearson was fired after 16 months in office, after a largely white group of residents mounted an effort to recall black council members. After they succeeded, one of the new, and now majority white, city council’s first acts was a vote to terminate Pearson, saying that he was never qualified to hold the job.