'The Courageous 12' in St. Pete honored with permanent plaque

The St. Petersburg Police Department unveiled a plaque Tuesday dedicated to a group of trailblazing African American officers known as the "Courageous 12."

Leon Jackson, 79, is the sole surviving member of the group and attended the ceremony.

"During that time in 1965, I never dreamed that we would be honored the way we are because we paved the way for African Americans in law enforcement. Not only in St. Petersburg, but in the entire nation. And it should be known," Jackson said. "I'm the last one left now and I'm going to carry the banner on for the rest of the other 11 officers that are gone."

According to city officials, the year after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed into law, 12 black police officers – who were among 15 with the police department – sued the city demanding they be treated the same as their white colleagues. The first judge’s ruling was not in their favor; however, they appealed and won the lawsuit on August 1, 1968.

Photos of "The Courageous 12" (St. Petersburg Police Department)

"We got to make sure that history is carried on from generation to generation," said Chief Anthony Holloway. "Those 12 men fought hard to make sure that minorities can be anywhere in the police department and we got to make sure we continue that fight." 

The plaque now hangs in the lobby of the department and includes the photographs of all 12 officers.