ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Leon Jackson was just a young man at 23 years old when St. Petersburg Police recruited him.
"We could investigate complaints from people of color only. We could arrest people of color only," Jackson said.
Racial discrimination held each one of them back.
"In 1965, we 12 uniformed officers started talking amongst ourselves about the racial barriers that existed that existed against us at the police department,” Jackson said.
And Officer Freddie Crawford, their leader, was the one who led the way.
"Officer Freddie Crawford came up with an idea. Freddie Crawford said, 'let's sue them,'” Jackson explained.
Now Jackson is the only one left of what's known as the "Courageous 12." Crawford passed away this weekend surrounded by family.
"Freddie was the one who had the nerve to snatch the sign down every time they put the sign up that says, 'Whites Only.' Freddie Crawford would snatch the sign down. That's the leadership that Freddie Crawford had,” Jackson said.
In 1968, a federal appeals court ruled in the Courageous 12's favor, ending segregation at the St. Pete Police Department the same year Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
"These 12 officers came forward and said, 'no more' and because they've done that, I'm in this position I'm in today,” said St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway.
Inside St. Pete's new Police headquarters, the "Courageous 12" will be honored.
"We not only paved the way for we 12 officers. We paved the way for African American police officers in the entire nation,” Jackson said.