Glover, Nathaniel Jr. 1943—
Nathaniel Glover, Jr. 1943—
Law enforcement official
Like most of us, Nathaniel Glover grew up believing that, should danger arise, he could always count on help from the police. But, as Glover found out, growing up black in the 1960s in the American South, reality was a different matter altogether. The police were nowhere to be found.
The year was 1960, the place, Jacksonville, Florida, Glover’s hometown. Just 17-years-old at the time, young Nat Glover regarded the hubbub around civil rights and sit-ins at the local Woolworth’s with detached interest; it didn’t affect him. Then, one day, a mob of rural whites—perhaps 70 or 80 men—rolled into town in their pickups. Those civil rights protestors and sit-in demonstrators were getting out of hand, the good old boys had decided, and they needed to be taught a thing or two. “They all came to town with brand new ax handles and pretty much shut the downtown area down,” Glover recalled in a telephone interview withCBB. “Even the white folk shopping left town.”
But not the young brash Glover. As he usually did, he stayed late at his Morrison’s Cafeteria job cleaning up, then left to go home—right down the city’s main street, right past the angry white men. “I looked around; I was the only person downtown, certainly the only black face,” Glover said. “I did see demonstrators, but I also saw police officers. “So he felt safe—and boldly strolled right past the angry crowd.
“There was something in me: I could have walked around the block and avoided that crowd. Of course the mob stopped me and made a few choice comments.” Asked where he was going, he replied, hinting at a challenge: “home; where do you think I’m going?” And at that, one of the ax handles came down on his shoulders hard. Dazzed and hurt, he stayed on his feet and hobbled over to the nearest police officer. “I thought he’d be helpful,” Glover said, But the officer simply told the youth to get his posterior out of town. Now “I went home and cried,” Glover recalled. “But not because of the blow; I was crying because I thought in my mind that I had done what a coward would do, run away from a fight.”
It was one of the formative events of his youth that pointed Glover in the direction that has been his career now for 30 years: law enforcement. At age 56, Glover has reached a zenith of sorts, since his 1995 election as the first African-American sheriff of Jacksonville, the same Deep South metropolis where he was once put down physically and emotionally. Perhaps Glover’s ascension can be seen as one of those hopeful signs that, three decades after the Civil Rights Era, the South is trying to heal its racial wounds—and sometimes succeeding.
Glover was born on March 29,1943, in Jacksonville to
At a Glance…
Born Nathaniel Glover Jr,, in Jacksonville, FL; son of Nathaniel and Arsie (Singletary) Glover. Married Doris Bailey Nov. 22, 1964; children: Clementine Valretha and Michael Eugene.
Education: Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, FL, BS, social science, 1966; University of North Florida-Jacksonville, MA, education, 1987; graduate of the 130th Session of the FBI National Academy.
Career: Jacksonville city police patrolman, 1966-69, investigator, Detective Division, 1969-74, promoted to sergeant, Detective Division, 1974. Head of Police Hostage Negotiation Team, 1975-86. Chief of services, 1986-88. Deputy director of police services, 1988-91. Director of police services, 1991-Feb., 1995. Elected sheriff of Duval County (and Jacksonville) April, 11, 1995, took office July, 1995.
Selected honors: Recipient, Sallye B. Mathis Award for outstanding community service from the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, 1991; Brotherhood of Police Officers Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award winner, 1977; state runnerup for the Florida Retail Federation’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, 1976.
Addresses: Office—c/o Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, 501 East Bay St., Jacksonville, FL, 32202.
Arsie and Nathaniel Glover, a household domestic worker and contract plasterer, who doubled on weekends as a Baptist preacher. There were six children in the home; Nathaniel was the third in line.
Jacksonville, a major East Coast seaport, insurance center and locus for three naval bases, was still very much a small Southern town in those days. The Glovers struggled to get by; the sheriff describes his youth as “somewhat difficult”; by sixth grade he was already working odd jobs. His young years were deprived not just economically, but in other ways too ; segregation was the law of the land. “You had to stay in your place,” he said. “The feeling then was that you were a second-class citizen. There was that prevailing [idea] that white people were superior and that as long as you stayed in your place you would not have any problem. I think that whole notion was perpetuated by the adults at that time because you didn’t see much rebellion.”
Furthermore, the area where he grew up was “quintessential ghetto.” Yet despite the inevitable gangs, the crime back then was far less violent than today, he remembers. “I lived in a neighborhood where there were no less than three moonshine houses in a two-block area, and I used to see the police officers come and go and never arrest anybody.” As for a police presence, it was barely there, probably because there were no black police officers on the city force until the 1950s. Even then, they were labeled “colored officers” and limited to riding together in black districts. Arresting whites was strictly prohibited.
Despite this rigidity, young Nathaniel was intrigued. Glover remembers listening to police stories on the radio. “I just always wanted to be a detective. This [ax handle] experience did not discourage me. If anything, it strengthened my resolve.”
Glover credits a strong parental presence in his life for keeping that resolve solid. “I went to school and most of the guys in my neighborhood were dropouts and having fun, buying cars. But I had to go to school. It was very unusual for me to finish 12th grade. I didn’t do it because I was in pursuit of academic excellence or afraid of the truant officer. “He laughs. “I was afraid of my mother. “That strong parental example also held the family together during an early tragedy: the death of Glover’s older sister from heart failure while he was in college.
In 1966 Glover graduated from Edward Waters College in Jacksonville with a B.S. degree in social science and almost immediately went to work for the police department as a patrol officer. Two years later, the city and county departments consolidated, making the reigning sheriff at the time head of law enforcement for both Jacksonville and surrounding Duval County—an area that encompasses an area of 764 square miles and has a population today of about 700,000.
Only two years into his career, Glover joined the detective ranks, working first in a civilian capacity, then attending a training academy for three months. He was promoted to sergeant in 1974. There were other black cops and detectives on the force by then; but, “racism was certainly present,” Glover said. The first black officers in Jacksonville had to accept a precinct office located in the basement under a municipal swimming pool. Glover himself was one of the first patrolmen to integrate a beat.
By the time he became a detective in 1969, Glover was already a father for the second time. He and his high school sweetheart, the former Doris Bailey, married in 1964, then had a son and daughter. In 1975 Glover formed the police hostage team, with which he would remain until 1986. The team unfortunately proved necessary: Glover recalls the hijacking of a Greyhound bus by a man with a gun threatening 32 passengers. Glover and an FBI agent subdued him after four hours.
There were other dangers encountered in those years, like the burning house the young officer entered to save a man caught there. The man was burned over 80 percent of his body. Glover himself was overcome by smoke and had to be hospitalized; but, both men survived. Later, there were the deaths of Glover’s fellow officers, including a plainclothes detective shot by a robber in May 1995. The man was a close friend of Glover’s.
In 1987 Glover received his master’s of education degree from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and about the same time began the first of several administrative jobs in the Sheriff’s Department. Now he was off the street, dealing with—not criminals—but records and patrol cars and the property room. From 1986-88 he was chief of services. Then he became deputy director of police services, adding the sheriff’s department building to his list of responsibilities. In 1991 he was appointed director of police services, a job that entailed all the tasks he already had, plus contract negotiations with the labor unions.
It was a heady position to be in, for a man who had grown up in the segregated South. The salary was top-of-the-ladder; the job was one of the top three in the department. He was the man to see about the Jail Division, the Prison Division, and the Human Resources Division. And any time he liked, he could retire to rest on his laurels with a comfortable pension and an excellent career record to look back on. Plus there had been honors: he had been the Florida Retail Federation’s “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” in 1976 and the Brotherhood of Police Officers “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” in 1977. He was active on several community boards with a slew of awards to show for it, including the Sallye B. Mathis Award for community service from the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP in 1991. He was president of his church. But Gloverwasn’taboutto retire from law enforcement. Not yet-first he had to reach the top.
When the incumbent sheriff, Jim McMillan, announced in 1994 that he would not run again, a citizens group began to pressure Glover to get involved. He agreed and threw his hat in the ring; ambition was part of it, he said, but there was another reason, too: “It doesn’t take a genious to figure out that a disproportionate portion of the crime [in urban centers like Jacksonville] is committed by blacks on blacks. The potential to have a black law enforcement officer would be good in that area as well.”
Out of the five original candidates, Glover and two other Sheriff’s Department staffers were still in the race after the primary; one of those opponents was his counterpart; Glover was then director of police services; the opponent was director of services. And, inevitably, Sheriff McMillan was asked to endorse one of the three. He chose the director of police services. Jacksonville was not yet ready for a black sheriff, he told a reporter. And there was precedent for his statement: Blacks in Jacksonville had been elected for years to the city council. But they had come only from black-majority, single-member districts.
Still, Glover was determined; he set out to prove the sheriff wrong, even though he entered the race late and raised only half the funds of his opponents. But the community, black and white, rallied to his side. One reason may have been that Glover walked each of the city’s 93 beats before the election. “I walked the whole city and talked to the people. I told them I wanted to hear what they had to say about what they wanted from their police department. I raised their consciousness level.”
His strategy paid off. On Election Day, April 11,1995, Glover captured 55 percent of the vote from a city that was only 24 percent black. He became Florida’s first elected black sheriff since Reconstruction, and he inherited a serious responsibility: a department with 2,400 employees and a $158 million annual budget. The black community was exultant. A state representative, Willye Clayton-Dennis, said at the time: “We are no longer that little country town that people will pass by on their way to other places in Florida. This is a plus this city needed.”
As for Glover himself, he took those Election Day numbers as a mandate for his philosophy of “community policing.” Glover described this concept as “a police strategy where police officers work with the community in identifying a problem in the community and try to solve those problems in the community. “As such, since taking office in July 1995, the new sheriff has moved toward installing 17 citizens’ advisory councils and six police substations. With help from local businesses, he is also instituting “stop” stations where officers can use phones and restrooms. These stop stations are particularly important, Glover said, in neighborhoods where officers do not live and where there are no police cars parked in driveways [in Jacksonville, officers take their vehicles home at night, partly for symbolic reasons].
Whether he will run again in four years remains a question. “If we are making some progress and doing the community some good and the community feels that we are—if our plans for a feeling of safety and security in the community are working—then I will run for reelection,” Glover said. In the meantime, he wants to work harder on crime prevention and the area of juvenile crime. And, of course, there are his plans for community policing. “There was a time, “he told a local victims’ publication, “when police said, ‘Law enforcement is our job. Let us do it.’ And citizens said, ’Law enforcement is your job. You do it. ’ “But today leaders in law enforcement know the police cannot do it alone.”
“Jacksonville Gets First Black Sheriff,”The Atlanta Journal/Constitution, June 29, 1995, p. C9.
“Justice,”Jet, July 17, 1995.
Telephone Interview with Nathaniel Glover, April 21, 1995.
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