He worked from the age of 12 with his father in the farming industry. He labored as a dishwasher, served in the U.S. Air Force in his early 20s, and later at the Bakersfield Police Department and the California Highway Patrol.
Archible Wendell Sherman Jr. would go on to earn an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s in business administration and, finally, a doctorate in education as he built a 22-year career at Bakersfield College in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.
Devoted to his church, devoted to his family and intent on helping others rise to their potential, Sherman died May 31 after a bout with pneumonia. He was 85.
Nicknamed “Sonny” to his family and church friends, and known as “Archie” by his work colleagues, Sherman had been struggling with health issues, said his wife of 64 years, Norma Sherman.
“He was ready,” she said of her husband’s final days.
“I haven’t wept. I have no tears. I’m not sad. I’m happy.
“He was a man of his word, a man of honor and I loved him dearly,” she said. “Why would I cry when he’s been everything I wanted him to be, everything I hoped he could be.”
Born July 28, 1936, in Bristow, Okla., young Archible moved with his family to Bakersfield when he was still very young. He attended local schools and graduated from Bakersfield High School in 1955.
One year later, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he served until 1960. While stationed at Mount Lemon Air Force Station near Tucson, Ariz., he proposed to the former Norma Carter, but only after gaining the blessing of her father.
The couple would marry and raise seven children together, although they would lose their youngest to heart disease when he was just 18.
“We had seven children, 21 grands and four greats,” Norma Sherman said, her face beaming.
“They all range from 2 to 63.”
Her husband became an officer with the Bakersfield Police Department in 1961, when Black faces in blue uniforms were exceedingly rare.
He moved to the CHP in 1964, where he served for more than a decade, much of it as a motor officer.
The white officers were not always welcoming, Norma Sherman remembered. But in the face of her husband’s strength and determination, it mattered little in the long term.
“He was passed over many times. He was laughed at, made fun of — but Daddy was secure in who he was,” she said, using her favorite pet name for the love of her life.
And he could be intimidating in his own right when he needed to be.
“When he would stand up, and you’d see all six feet unravel in front of you …” she said, smiling at the thought of it.
The career he found that fulfilled him in his working life was his vocation as an educator and administrator at Bakersfield College, where he held many positions over several years, including director of the Martin Luther King Center, director of the assessment center and director of the Weill Institute.
But it may have been his experience in law enforcement and his deep study of police practices — he co-wrote the book, “Traffic Investigation and Control” in the 1970s — that got his foot in the door.
He directed BC’s police academy for something like 12 years, his wife said.
Jerry Ludeke, now retired and living in Northern California, worked several decades at BC as an instructor, a counselor, a volunteer and more. She remembers Archie Sherman as a “gentle giant.”
“He was quiet spoken, but his very presence invited respect and attention,” she said. “He always had a warm smile and was known for the efficiency with which he carried out any assignment — and he had quite a variety in his years on campus.”
Sherman had been a student at BC, where he earned his associate degree, before going on to Cal State Long Beach.
It was while Sherman was working at BC that he went on to earn his doctorate in education, or EdD, from Nova University.
“He just kept going,” Ludeke said.
Chair of the Public Service Department. Director of Admissions and Records.
Director of the Martin Luther King Center, assessment center and the Weill Institute.
“It was his positive approach to leadership,” she said. “A very respectful approach,” that counted as one of the reasons for his success.
Sherman had a wisdom about him that was sought out by others, Ludeke said. “He was a willing and natural mentor to many.”
“Archie Sherman will be missed both by Bakersfield College and the Bakersfield community.”
Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.