SPECIAL TO THE
TALLAHASSEE – A former state lawmaker, an NAACP leader and a prominent civil-rights activist were named last week by Gov. Rick Scott to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Scott announced the selection of Dr. Arnett Girardeau, Willie H. Williams, and Patricia Stephens Due. They were chosen from a list of 10 nominees selected by the Florida Commission on Human Relations for making significant contributions to the improvement of life in Florida.
•Dr. Arnett Girardeau, 88, of Jacksonville, led civil rights efforts in the Florida Legislature. After serving in the military, Girardeau earned a dental degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and returned to Florida. In 1976, Girardeau was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, serving until he was elected to the Florida Senate in 1982. Girardeau became the first African-American Florida Senate pro tempore (the Senate’s third-ranked office) and was a founding member and chairman of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators. He was also involved in civil rights activism in the Jacksonville area.
•Willie H. Williams, 85, of Orlando, was the first African-American hired in the engineering department of Martin Marietta Aerospace (now Lockheed Martin), in Orlando. Following his service in the United States Air Force, Williams pursued a bachelor’s degree at Florida A&M University. Williams has served as president of the Orange County NAACP and vice president of the NAACP Florida State Conference of Branches. (Florida Courier Founder Charles W. Cherry, Sr., was NAACP state president at the time.) Williams helped strengthen NAACP relations with local and state government and corporations. He was also recognized by Martin Marietta for his advocacy for employment equality within the company.
•Patricia Stephens Due, (1939-2012), formerly of Quincy, is a pioneer of the civil rights movements in Florida. While attending Florida A&M University, Due and her sister Priscilla established a local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality. Due spent 49 days in one of the nation’s first jail-ins after she refused to pay a fine for sitting in at a “White only” lunch counter at a Woolworth’s in Tallahassee. Her eyes were damaged by tear gas used by police during a protest march, and she wore dark glasses for the rest of her life. She led nonviolent civil rights demonstrations throughout the South. Her efforts were noted by other leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and she has been recognized with the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Outstanding Leadership, the Gandhi Award for Outstanding Work in Human Relations, and the NAACP Florida Freedom Award. In 2003, Due and her daughter Tananarive wrote “Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights.” She died in 2012 after battling cancer.