Dr. Goliath Davis, III, was born and raised in the Methodist Town neighborhood in St. Petersburg. He and a couple of others from that area chose to attend the predominantly white St. Petersburg High School instead of the predominantly Black Gibbs High.
After high school, Davis enrolled at Rollins College. He continued his education at the University of South Florida, obtaining a master’s degree in criminal justice. He enrolled at Florida State University and received a doctorate in criminology.
Reluctant to enter the law enforcement field, Davis wanted to use his degree to pursue something in line with social activism. However, family friends had different plans, encouraging him to join the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Davis thought he’d stay for a year and move on but instead remained on the force for 28 years, with the last four as police chief. Davis became the first African-American police chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Following his tenure as chief, he was appointed deputy mayor, focusing on the revitalization of Midtown. However, in 2011, he was fired by then-Mayor Bill Foster for not attending slain police officers’ funerals.
Davis stated during a press conference in the wake of his firing from the city: “I have been controversial since the beginning of my employment in 1973 to now.”
The press conference allowed Davis to explain his version of what happened. He went on to stress that he did not resign but was fired.
As was his policy, Davis had not attended a police department funeral since 1980 but paid his respects at the officers’ wakes.
Davis stood his ground, remarking, “I was born on March 2 and fired on March 2. How many people have the distinction of being fired on your birthday?”
Davis continues to be a prominent yet controversial member of the community.
We honor a life well lived — a St. Pete legend.
This article was part of the 28 days of Black history heard on WUJM – 99.1 FM.