Sitting at the security checkpoint at the Jackson County Courthouse entrance, David Rogers watches as people enter the courthouse, doing his job of protection as he has done most of his life.
At 71, it’s more of a part-time thing, now, coming in when the sheriff needs him. It’s also a lot tamer, you might say. A lot quieter, for sure, and of course, a whole lot less dangerous.
Rogers’ life has been about danger, literally from the day he was born, though he’s not exactly sure what day that was.
You see, someone found him in a telephone booth in 1951 in Tokyo, Japan. A doctor found him and determined him to be a couple of months old. His birth name was Tsuneo Tanigawa.
Sgt. Ernest Rogers, who fought in the Korean War and was stationed in Japan, along with his wife, Annie, adopted the baby and renamed him David.
They left on a boat on Nov. 3, 1952 in Yokohoma, Japan and arrived in Seattle, Washington on Nov. 15, 1952, Rogers’ first entry into the United States, the place he would call home ever since.
His parents divorced when Rogers was around 10 years old. He grew up in Kentucky, living with his mother, who he says was an alcoholic. Life was hard, he remembers.
“Time wasn’t real good,” Rogers said.
He did what he had to do as a youngster to survive, anything to make money such as delivering papers, collecting bottles and catching crab to sell to restaurants.
At 13, Rogers ran away from his mother and home and came to Alabama to live with his father in Birmingham. His life turned out much better, he says. He graduated from Banks High School, in Birmingham, in 1971.
“I was drafted into the Army after graduation and served three years,” said Rogers.
After his military service, Rogers needed a job. He went to work at the Mountain Brook Police Department in 1975. Three years later, he joined the Birmingham Police Department, where he worked 20 years.
It was a different time in Birmingham then, a rougher time maybe. Rogers remembers the KKK marches, the bombings, trucker strikes, rioting and abortion protests. He was part of a tactical unit, a specialized police unit formed and trained to handle situations that are beyond the capabilities of ordinary law enforcement units because of the level of violence or risk of violence involved.
It was a high time each night, Rogers remembers. He was involved in two shootings in a three-day span. Car chases, car wrecks, shootings and fights were common on any given night.
Rogers dealt with gangs, worked in the “bad part of town,” more times than not. He worked the housing projects, where shootings and vandalism were nightly ordeals
“It got to the point, you would hear gunshots and not even turn your head,” said Rogers. “Back then, you would work all kind of extra jobs, to make money, like the projects and bars on Friday and Saturday nights.”
He was still a young man, doing his job each night. A night off was weird. He didn’t know what to do.
“I wanted to come to work,” Rogers said. “I wanted to police and protect people.”
He worked on a motorcycle for years. Rogers escorted presidents and anyone famous coming through Birmingham.
“I escorted Bo Jackson one time,” he said.
In 1998, Rogers left Birmingham and joined the Fultondale Police Department, where he stayed until 2017 and retired. A lot of the years in Fultondale, he served as an investigator.
At retirement, life changed.
“I told my wife [Mona] I won’t have to see any more dead bodies,” said Rogers.
In July 2017, he and Mona, married almost 40 years, moved to Scottsboro to be closer to family. He heard there might be an opening for courthouse security, so he applied.
“It gives me something to do,” said Rogers. “I’m here whenever they need me.”
He still stays busy, doing gun shows and baseball card shows. He’s met Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. He also met Don Knotts.
“I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of people,” said Rogers.
Yes, life is a lot quieter, a lot less dangerous now. But for a man, who was found in a phone booth at two months old, dealt with hard times as a child, never knew his birth parents or even who they were, Rogers has made a good life, still serving and protecting the public he was hired to do 47 years ago.
Thankfully, with a lot less danger and stress.