By: Jake Stofan; Capitol News Service
June 7, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – Three people were inducted to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame Wednesday during the sixth annual ceremony.
Patricia Due, Willie Williams and Dr. Arnett Girardeau were hailed for paving the future for many modern day black leaders.
In 1960, Quincy, Florida native Patricia Stephens Due spent 49 days in jail for sitting at a “whites” only lunch counter at a Tallahassee Woolworth’s store. It’s now recognized as the first “jail-in” of the Civil Rights Movement.
Today, the John Due and Patricia Stephens Due Freedom Endowed Scholarship provides $1,000 to a FAMU student who plans to use the legacy of the civil rights movement to do his or her part to make the U.S. a better nation.
Due passed away in 2012, and she was inducted into the Florida Civil rights Hall of Fame posthumously.
“Things did not happen just for them to happen. People made some things happen,” says Rondey L. Hurst Sr.
Willie H. Williams, a FAMU graduate, became the first African American hired in Lockheed Martin’s engineering department.
He also worked to eliminate racism in Orlando, serving with the NAACP and sitting on multiple community boards and committees.
Dr. Arnett Girardeau Sr. of Jacksonville is one of the founding members of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislatures, and he became the first and only Black Senate President Pro Tempore. As a state legislator, he introduced the African Scholarship Program, leading to a number of African-American students receiving a college education.
Dr. Girardeau’s activism in state politics laid the path for many that came after him.
Former Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll commended Dr. Girardeau for his contributions.
“The sacrifices that you made for a little girl like me to accomplish the things that I've been able to, in a state where I would not have been even able to walk the streets in peace,” says Carroll.
Each inductee has a plaque on the first floor of the State Capitol Building memorializing their achievements.
“As someone who has personally and professionally benefited from the works of these pioneers, I join all Floridians in recognizing their contributions that improved our state and country for the better,” says Florida Commission on Human Relations Executive Director Michelle Wilson.
The Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame now consists of 18 members.