Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Who were the Courageous 12?

Who were the Courageous 12?

Black and white headshots of the Courageous 12 in police uniform

The “Courageous 12” were a group of twelve African American police officers in St. Petersburg, Florida, during the 1960s. At that time, like most of the South, the city was deeply segregated. The Black officers were treated differently. They couldn’t patrol white areas of town. They had segregated water fountains, lockers, and cars. They couldn’t arrest white people even if they were committing a crime in a black part of town. Black officers were restricted to patrolling Zone 13, which included the Deuces (22nd Street South), the Gas Plant, Methodist Town, and the remnants of Pepper Town, the city’s original Black settlement.

Led by Leon Jackson, these officers decided to challenge these unfair practices. In 1965, 12 of the 15 black officers on the St. Petersburg police force (Leon Jackson, Freddie Crawford, Raymond DeLoach, Adam Baker, Charles Holland, Robert Keys, Primus Killen, James King, Johnnie Lewis, Horace Nero, Jerry Styles, and Nathaniel Wooten) decided to file a lawsuit against the City of St. Petersburg and the police department. This lawsuit, called Leon Jackson et al. v. City of St. Petersburg, aimed to end the discriminatory policies that limited their work and promotion opportunities.

ADVERTISEMENT

In 1968, a federal court ruled in favor of the Courageous 12, ordering the police department to stop segregating its officers. This decision meant that Black officers could patrol all neighborhoods and arrest anyone, regardless of race.

Mayor Ken Welch holding a Proclamation honoring the Courageous 12 and standing next to Leon Jackson, the remaining member of the 12

Despite their success, the Courageous 12 faced many challenges. They were threatened, harassed, and faced devastating setbacks. Yet, their courage and determination helped them persevere. Today, the Courageous 12 are remembered for their bravery and commitment to justice. Leon Jackson, the last surviving member of the Courageous 12, expressed his pride in knowing that their story will be remembered and continue to inspire future generations. “It’s not a ‘me thing.’ It’s a ‘we thing.’ It’s an honor for we 12 police officers to stand up and challenge racism and change the system in St. Petersburg,” Jackson says in an interview by BayNews 9 last year.

The Courageous 12 monument

Rendering of planned monument designed by Ya La'ford surrounded by palm trees
Rendering courtesy Ya La’ford

A monument by renowned artist Ya La’ford is in the works to honor these courageous men. It will feature twelve busts of the officers with a police shield above and will stand at the old site of the St. Petersburg Police Department. The work will signify the officers’ path to justice, the challenges they overcame, and their eventual success in achieving equality.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Subscribe Now

Don’t miss out on All Things Good in the Burg 👉
👇 GET UPDATES 👇

Stay connected to All Things Good in the Burg by subscribing today.