A Darlington County native made history Friday, becoming the first African-American to lead the South Carolina Highway Patrol, according to the the SC Department of Public Safety (SCDPS).

Christopher Williamson, a 29-year Patrol veteran, was named Commander of the South Carolina Highway Patrol Friday. Williamson replaces Col. Michael Oliver, who is retiring after 35 years with the Highway Patrol. Williamson served as deputy commander under Oliver since 2011. He joined Highway Patrol in 1988 and spent his career in the Berkeley/Orangeburg/Charleston region until joining headquarters in 2011.

“This is both an exciting and bittersweet day,” said SCDPS Director Leroy Smith. “We welcome an enthusiastic and visionary leader in Col. Williamson. But we will miss Col. Oliver, who has led the Highway Patrol with strength and integrity – often through difficult seasons for law enforcement in our state and nation,” said Smith.

As lieutenant colonel, Williamson managed the day-to-day operations of the Highway Patrol, which has statewide jurisdiction. Williamson oversaw the administrative, operational and support functions of the Patrol associated with enforcement and public safety. He has also overseen safety outreach, as well as traffic and specialized enforcement for 11 Troops.

Williamson worked alongside Col. Oliver during critical times such as the 1,000 Year Flood, Hurricane Matthew and events following the Emanuel Nine shootings. He has also been instrumental in important infrastructure and technological advances within the Highway Patrol, according to SCDPS.

“With this new role comes great responsibility to the citizens and visitors of this state and to the troopers and civilian personnel of the Highway Patrol,” Williamson said. “My primary goals are to continue creative enforcement and safety education efforts to reduce highway fatalities and collisions; to work diligently to ensure our men and women are recruited, retained and compensated fairly for the dangerous and difficult job they do; and to continue to enhance our relationships with the communities we serve.”

Marc Wright, a 35-year veteran, has been named deputy commander of the South Carolina Highway Patrol, succeeding Colonel Williamson in that role. He has been serving in the role of major since 2012. He has extensive experience in administration, field operations and resource management, according to SCDPS.