Black Sheriff's Deputy Denied Burial at Louisiana Cemetery Due to Its 'Whites Only' Policy

Darrell Semien of the Allen Parish Sheriff's Office died on Sunday at the age of 55

Darrell Semien
Darrell Semien. Photo: ardoin funeral home

The family of a Black sheriff's deputy in Louisiana is speaking out after they were denied a burial spot for him at a local cemetery due to its "whites only" policy.

Darrell Semien of the Allen Parish Sheriff's Office died on Sunday at the age of 55, according to his online obituary.

When Semien's wife went to Oaklin Springs Cemetery in Oberlin to make funeral arraignments, she was refused a plot because he was not white, KPLC-TV reported.

"It was in their by-laws that the cemetery was 'whites only,' " Karla Semien told the local news outlet.

Semien's daughter said the family was presented with a cemetery contract stipulating that "the right of burial of the remains of white human beings."

"She had this paperwork in her hand that she said was drawn up 70 plus years ago," Shayla Semien told KATC-TV. "If we really wanted to have him buried here, we would have to get board approval because he was a colored man."

"My dad wasn't any man, he was a phenomenal man," she said. "He was a police officer in this same community for 15 years. He was denied a place to lay because of the color of his skin."

Oaklin Springs Cemetery in Louisiana
Oaklin Springs Cemetery.

According to the Associated Press, H. Creig Vizena, the board president for Oaklin Springs Cemetery Association, held an emergency meeting on Thursday to remove the clause from its sales contracts.

Vizena told the outlet that he only learned of cemetery's policy when a deputy who had known Semien called to tell him about the incident.

While the contract's wording has since been changed and the woman who refused the Semien family a plot has been "relieved of her duties," Vizena said that the incident still weighs heavily on him.

"It's a stain that's going to be on our cemetery and our community for a long time," he told AP.

Vizena added that he has apologized to the family and offered them one of his own plots, though they've refused.

Semien's wife told KPLC-TV that her husband, who died of cancer, wanted to be buried at Oaklin Springs due to its close proximity to their home. However, the incident has changed her mind about the location.

According to his obituary, Semien will be buried at Sonnier Cemetery.

"Darrell was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, godfather and a friend to all," his obit read. "He was always very outgoing, genuine, compassionate and generous. Although, he may have looked intimidating, once you got to know him you loved him."

"Darrell will be forever missed and unconditionally loved by all who knew and loved him."

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