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Department History

Samuel Jones - SPPD's First Black Police Sergeant.

“Big Sam” was a gentle giant who stood 6 feet 5 inches tall. He was born in Bradenton in 1927, moved to St. Petersburg with his family and graduated from Gibbs High School in 1947.

In 1949, a group of Black businessmen, doctors and Masonic leaders battled with city management and finally convinced them to hire their first group of African American men to be police officers. Big Sam, alongside Titus Robinson, Willie Seay, and Louis Burroughs, stepped up to become “The Police for the Black Communities.”

Though the officers couldn't police white areas of the city, their police work made the communities they patrolled better and safer for all who lived there. Officer Jones and his fellow officers knew the names and faces of the citizens they protected through a “Walk and Ride” program. They solved neighborhood issues and crimes like seizing illegal alcohol, arresting murderers, and breaking up gambling parties.

Officer Jones left the department to serve his country in the U.S. Army in 1950. Big Sam came back in 1952 and was reinstated as an officer without hesitation.

Chief Bud Purdy thought highly of Officer Jones, calling him “an outstanding officer and a fine man,” and promoted him to the rank of sergeant in 1960.

Sergeant Samuel Jones was the first African American Sergeant who supervised 10 African American officers.

To his family and friends, Sgt. Jones was known as a giver and a kindhearted person. To his co-workers and squad, he was known as fair and positive. Sgt. Jones took care of his officers and was diplomatic and professional when dealing with criminals.

Sgt. Jones retired in 1970 and became the first African American municipal court bailiff in St. Petersburg.

He was a pioneer who gave his life to God, family, country and community.

Big Sam died on August 5, 2018 at the age of 90.

St. Petersburg Police Department is honored to have had this trailblazer within the ranks to help lead the way to a police department that looks like the community we serve.

We thank Sergeant Samuel Jones and his family for his 20 plus years of dedicated service and the positive difference he made in St. Petersburg.


Sergeant Samuel Jones

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