Chief Holloway hosts Tampa’s Fearless Four

Police Chief Anthony Holloway, Fearless Four Officers Rufus Lewis and Clarence Nathan, Courageous Twelve Officer Leon Jackson and former Police Chief Goliath Davis.

GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, Ph.D. | Contributor

ST. PETERSBURG — Police Chief Anthony Holloway invited the Fearless Four to tour the new police department on Oct. 25. Members of Tampa’s Fearless Four — Clarence Nathan and Rufus Lewis — along with the sole surviving Courageous Twelve Officer Leon Jackson and myself, former Police Chief Goliath Davis, were impressed with the building’s ambiance as well as the advances in police technology.

Chief Holloway was an incredibly gracious host.

Officer James Dukes

Building on the lawsuit filed by St. Petersburg’s Courageous Twelve, four Tampa Police Officers, Clarence Nathan, James Dukes, Frank Gray and Rufus Lewis, filed a federal discrimination complaint in 1974 with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the City of Tampa Police Department, contesting systemic discrimination and prevailed in 1976.

Officer Frank Gray

The Fearless Four asked other Black officers in the department not to participate in the suit. Officers within five years before retirement were told not to get involved, and Bennie Holder, the newest Black officer, was told to “stand down and prepare to walk through the doors that would be opened.”  He complied and went on to become Tampa’s first Black Police Chief.  Chief Holder served for 10 years, longer than any other chief to date.

Officer Rufus Lewis

As with the suit filed by the Courageous Twelve, the Fearless Four’s action improved conditions for Black Tampa employees citywide. Tampa has now had two Black police chiefs, two female police chiefs, Black female assistant chiefs and Black majors.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor was an openly gay female chief of police and credited the actions of the Fearless Four with opening the doors of equality that made her advancement possible.

Officer Clarence Nathan

On April 4, 2021, Mayor Castor, then-Police Chief Brian Dugan and Tampa’s City Council members unveiled a monument for the Fearless Four at the Tampa Police Department. Members of the Fearless Four spoke about their trials and stated they were guided by Psalms 91. They thanked the city administration for “giving them their flowers while they still lived.”

During the tour of the new police complex, we all reminisced and shared war stories comparing the past to the present with some small degree of envy for what we perceive as “easy street.” Technology is making it easier to solve crime. All of us wished we could have benefitted from the innovations.

Mayor Jane Castor and then-Chief Brian Dugan honored the officers with the unveiling of the ‘Fearless Four Historical Monument’ on April 3, 2021. The monument is on permanent display on the first floor of the Tampa Police Department, 411 North Franklin Street.

Regrettably, two of the Fearless Four were not able to attend. Hopefully, they will be able to reschedule. Chief Holloway and everyone we encountered at the department was extremely polite, professional and eager to assist. I cannot thank them enough.

I fondly remember the countless hours I spent with Fearless Four Officer Rufus “Jabo” Lewis on the telephone trying to come up with a moniker befitting the officers’ courage, given that “courageous” was taken by St. Pete’s brave Twelve.

We talked at length, and after discussing the LA Rams’ Fearsome Foursome — the four dominating defensive line of the 1960s and ’70s — we landed on the fact that the four officers were fearless, and thus the appellation Fearless Four was born.

Courageous Twelve Officer Freddie Lee Crawford always regretted losing Lewis, a former Jordan Park resident, to the Tampa Police Department and always maintained a close connection. When Crawford left the St. Petersburg Police Department for the Justice Department, he encouraged Lewis to build on the Courageous Twelve initiative in Tampa, noting the blueprint had already been drawn.

Lewis, Nathan, Gray, and Dukes did just that, and history was made again.

Chief Holloway is the second Black police chief in St. Petersburg, and I am sure he, like me, is eternally grateful for the heroes on whose shoulders we stand. Hats off to the Courageous Twelve and the Fearless Four.

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