Date of Release: June 8, 2007
Time of Release: 9:00a.m.
Orlando Sentinel, John Jordan and family, Chief McCoy
Fifty-six years after joining the Orlando Police
Department, the first black police officers were honored in an award ceremony.
At 3pm on Wednesday, May 16, 2007, those officers were recognized with the
Chief’s Special Award. Chief McCoy presented the award to the families of
Richard A. Jones, Gainus Wright, Jr., Mayo Howard, Belvin Perry, Sr., and Otha
Lee Kelly. The last surviving officer, John W. Jordan was present to accept his
own award. The young men had previously worked as waiters, bellhops, bakers and
cab drivers. Chosen for their respect among the black community, the officers
joined the Orlando Police Department between 1951 and 1954. The young men
patrolled the black community and had little authority elsewhere in the city.
They were given neither guns nor patrol cars. The officers worked hard, making
arrests, breaking up fights, and working in the schools to promote safety and
awareness. The men diligently worked together through some of the most difficult
times faced by the black community. Despite daily obstacles, the six young men
represented the Orlando Police Department and earned great respect throughout
the Orlando community. Also honored with the Chief’s Special Award was Orlando
Sentinel reporter Jeff Kunerth. Mr. Kunerth worked diligently to collect
information about those officers and their roles within the Orlando Police
Department. His six-part series, Breaking Barriers: A Look at Orlando’s First
Black Officers brought the efforts of the six officers to public light.
Without his hard work, the extraordinary valor of these six men could have been
lost to history.