Leroy Smith is a man as caught between two realities as the state he serves: Earlier this month, the African-American state trooper donned a civilian suit to watch as South Carolina rolled up the Confederate flag flying over its state Capitol; as the New York Times reports in a profile, sending "chills running along his spine" as a racially divisive symbol of the Confederacy was consigned to history. Eight days later, he was back at the Capitol—this time in uniform—as protesters decried the flag's removal, gently guiding an older white supremacist, seemingly overcome by the heat, to a couch inside the air-conditioned State House in a photo that went almost immediately viral. Smith's explanation? "I think that’s the greatest thing in the world—love," he says. "And that’s why so many people were moved by it."
“He looked fatigued, lethargic—weak," say Smith of the unidentified man, who was clad in a white supremacist T-shirt. "I knew there was something very wrong with him." The two men didn't talk much, notes the Times, other than Smith's quiet words of encouragement as they climbed the State House steps. An aide to Gov. Nikki Haley snapped the picture of the two men, unbeknownst to Smith, sensing a moment of grace as South Carolina struggled to cope with a racist tragedy. "In that moment, Leroy Smith was the embodiment of all that," says Haley's aide. The Times' full piece is here. (Read more South Carolina stories.)