ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - Officer Freddie Crawford was a trailblazer for the St. Petersburg Police Department and a man who ignited change in his community. On Saturday, friends and family gathered to remember Crawford after his passing on May 17 at the age of 81.
"He was a man who commanded and demanded respect, he treated you with respect and that's exactly what he earned," said grandson Oren Crawford. "We were amazed and shocked at how great of a man he was, but today I realized the magnitude of the people he touched and who he was."
Crawford was one of the first African-American officers to wear a St. Petersburg police uniform. However, his early years at the departments were far from easy.
He was restricted to patrolling only black neighborhoods, and he wasn't allowed to arrest white people or apply for a higher position.
"He totally believed that if you can do it, we can do it," Oren said. "He was a leader, he was a trendsetter."
In 1965, Crawford risked it all to fight for equality. He joined 11 other officers to form the 'Courageous Twelve.' The group filed a federal lawsuit against the city and eventually won three years later, giving them the equal rights as officers that they deserved.
"For 40 years that's been Freddie Lee Crawford. There's no sugar coating it, there's no if, ands or buts about it. He was a standup guy, and he totally believed in equality," his grandson told FOX 13.
To this day, Crawford's legacy stretches far beyond those early years. He is remembered now as a man who always stood for what was right.
"He let us know there was nothing we couldn't do, there's was no height we couldn't get to. He was just all around a great man," Oren recalled.
After Crawford retired, he still fought for what he believed in. He worked with the Department of Justice to resolve racial tension across the country.
"He didn't waver, he didn't shy away from it. And because of that courage, we are where we are today," his grandson said.
He has left behind a lasting impact that still shapes the St. Petersburg community.
"The courage that he had, I don't think his legacy is anywhere close to over. If anything, it's just starting," said Kymbriell Finch, Crawford's granddaughter.