TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Four Black Tampa police officers, known as the Fearless Four for their courageous efforts to fight discrimination, were honored over the weekend.
Former Tampa police officers; Frank Gray, James Dukes, Rufus Lewis, and Clarence Nathan were all on the force when America started the process of desegregation. However, blatant racism and mistreatment toward Black officers was still prominent in the 1960s and 70s.
“That racial slur, they would go over the radio with that all the time,” Nathan told 8 On Your Side in March. “They’d say ‘I’m chasing a N**** male, but when you confront them they say Negro.”
By 1974, these four men had had enough. They created an unbreakable bond built on faith and sued the City of Tampa and the Tampa Police Department for discriminating against Black and minority officers and city employees. In 1976; they won.
The Fearless Four’s efforts paved the way for every Black, brown, woman and minority officer that came behind them. Their efforts are also the reason why Tampa city employees and agencies across the world get to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities discrimination once denied them.
The city of Tampa and the Tampa Police Department honored the four men with a monument that now sits inside of TPD’s headquarters.
In front of family, friends, community members, law enforcement, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, TPD Chief Brian Dugan, city councilmembers and more; the monument for the Fearless Four was unveiled.
It’s a project that took about 14 months, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the time, the Fearless Four were happy they received their flowers.
“The sad part is most people don’t get their flowers when they can see them, but thanks be to God all four of us are here to receive our flowers,” Gray said.
“Aw man when I saw the monument it was breathtaking for me,” Lewis said.
The monument has the scripture Psalm 91 behind the Fearless Four. That’s the bible scripture that held them together through the trials they encountered. The monument also have pictures of Black officers that came before and after them. At the bottom of the monument is a timeline of everything that happened.
“I think younger officers really need to understand the history and how things have changed so they have a better understanding of that things were not always easy and so many people before them had to make sacrifices,” Chief Dugan said.
“I would not be standing here today had it not been for the courageous actions of these individuals,” Mayor Castor said.
This monument is possible thanks to so many people, including the designers, artists, Ida Walker with the Tampa Police Department and City Councilmember Orlando Gudes. Gudes is the councilman that made the motion to create some kind of honor or monument for the Fearless Four.
“It’s something that’s long over due, it’s history,” Gudes said. “Black people always make history, but the sometimes the story is never told. Today, the story was told and in this building now that frame, for generations people will know the story of how those four men fought for inclusion for everybody.”
The monument is inside of TPD’s headquarters located at 411 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602.