Former Jacksonville sheriff: ‘Notion of change is sometimes uncomfortable'

Nat Glover was 1st and only black sheriff elected in Florida during 20th century

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nat Glover is a pioneer in Jacksonville, and the city’s former top cop was the first and only black sheriff elected in Florida during the 20th century.

The former president of Edward Waters College told News4Jax Thursday that he has hope for the city when it comes to race relations and reforming police. He said there is still a journey to take toward equality.

“The whole notion of change is sometimes uncomfortable for people,” Glover said. “We have quite a bit of work to do, and I’m talking from health care to employment to just weaving our way in the fabric of society, so we will all be seen as equal.”

Glover survived what many consider the worst race-related incident in the history of Jacksonville, Ax Handle Saturday, which occurred almost 60 years ago. He said it taught him not to live in fear.

During his time as Jacksonville’s sheriff, Glover acted on his vision of police reform needed at the time. It helped change things at the Sheriff’s Office and make them better.

“The whole notion of change is is sometimes uncomfortable for people, so you have to understand those dynamics and push your way through the obstacles that will surely come,” Glover said. “The bottom line is, you want to make it better than you found it.”

As sheriff, Glover:

  • Initiated a community policing concept
  • Put officer names on their police cars
  • Placed substations around the city, mostly in shopping centers
  • Established citizen advisory councils in every city’s sector
  • Raised educational requirement for police recruits from high school diploma to college degree
  • Discontinued the use of chokeholds

He’s not criticizing Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, but Glover said there’s room for improvement and for hope all across the community.

“We often think that any confrontation has to be adversarial, and that’s not the case,” Glover said. “The bottom line is, we want to have a dialogue where on the other side of that dialogue we can look back and say it’s better than when we started.”

Glover began his police career in Jacksonville in 1966 and was elected as the city’s sheriff in 1995, serving two terms. He served as president of Edward Waters College from 2010 until retiring in 2018.

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