SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
TALLAHASSEE – Sallye Brooks Mathis, Edward Daniel Davis and Reubin O. Askew were officially inducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame for 2015 on Wednesday.
Sallye Brooks Mathis
Sallye Brooks Mathis (1912-1982), was born in Jacksonville. She earned an Associate of Arts degree from Bethune-Cookman College, studied at Tuskegee Institute, and graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. She enjoyed a 28-year career as a teacher in the Duval County Public School system. She served in the NAACP, leading voter registration initiatives and organizing local events, and was a member of the League of Woman Voters.
In 1967, Mathis became one of the few Black women ever elected to the Jacksonville City Council.
While serving there, she initiated legislation for a Citizens’ Police Review Board, free public toilets, and equal job opportunities in public agencies. She also fought for reduced bus fares for senior citizens. A Jacksonville school, the Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School, is named in her honor.
Edward Daniel Davis, Sr.
Edward Daniel Davis, Sr. (1904-1989), was born in Thomasville, Ga., and moved to Florida at an early age. An author, educator and businessman, Davis was educated at Paine College and Northwestern and Columbia Universities.
He worked as a high school principal in St. Augustine, Tampa and Ocala from 1929 to 1942. He was fired as head of Howard Academy in Ocala in 1942 because he led the Florida State Teachers Association in a legal move to obtain equal pay for Black instructors.
Starting in 1949, he was instrumental in a nine-year fight that he called one of his ‘’most frustrating experiences’’ to open the University of Florida School of Law to Black students. He founded the Florida Voters League, which was a key factor in Black voter registration increasing from about 40,000 in the early 1960s to more than 300,000 in 1964.
In 1978, he retired as president of the Central Life Insurance Company, the only Black-owned insurance company in the state. In 1981, he published his book, “A Half Century of Struggle for Freedom in Florida,” a treatise on his civil rights battles.
Reubin O’Donovan Askew
Reubin O’Donovan Askew (1928-1979) was born in 1928 in Muskogee, Okla. In 1937, he moved with his mother and five siblings to Pensacola. Askew served in two branches of the United States military, in both houses of the Florida Legislature, two terms as Florida governor, and as United States trade ambassador.
As governor, Askew was a progressive reformer with regard to civil rights, taxes, judicial and executive reorganization and open government. In 1971, Askew appointed Miami’s Athalie Range as secretary of the Department of Community Affairs, making her the first African-American since Reconstruction and the first woman ever to head a state agency in Florida.
In 1975, Askew appointed Joseph Hatchett to the Florida Supreme Court, the first African-American to serve on the state’s highest judicial body. In 1978, Askew appointed Jesse McCrary, Jr. fill a vacancy in the office of Secretary of State; McCrary was only the second African-American to serve in this position and in the Florida Cabinet.
For more information on the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame, visit http://fchr.state.fl.us or on Facebook.