Three Civil Rights Heroes Inducted into Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame

May 13, 2015 – Tallahassee, Fla.– Today, Sallye Brooks Mathis, Edward Daniel Davis and Reubin O’D Askew were officially inducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame for 2015.

“Many individuals have made a positive impact on the civil rights movement in Florida, and it brings me great pride to once again recognize them by the induction to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame,” said Florida Commission on Human Relations Executive Director Michelle Wilson. “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,” concluded Wilson.

Sallye Brooks Mathis (1912-1982)–Ms. Sallye Brooks Mathis was born in Jacksonville Florida on May 18, 1912. She received an Associate of Arts Degree from Bethune-Cookman University, went on to study at the Tuskegee Institute and graduated from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. She enjoyed a 28-year career as a teacher in the Duval County Public School system, where she taught elementary school students and high school history at Matthew Gilbert High School. She served in the NAACP, leading voter registration initiatives and organizing local events, as well as served as a member of the League of Woman Voters. Her commitment to the cause of civil rights led the local NAACP Chapter to name an annual community service award in her honor. In 1967, she became one of the first women and African-Americans elected to the Jacksonville City Council. While serving on the City Council, 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. Her service to education was recognized by the naming of a Jacksonville school, the Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School, in her honor.

Edward Daniel Davis (1904-1989)– Edward Daniel Davis was born in Thomasville, Georgia and moved to Florida at an early age. An author, educator and businessman, Mr. Davis was best known for his unyielding civil rights crusades that helped desegregate the University of Florida, raise the salary of black teachers to the level of whites and increase black voter registration. He was educated at Paine College in Augusta, Georgia and Northwestern and Columbia universities. He worked as high school principals 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 minority 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, yet remained board chairman, 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. In 1986, he accepted the first Governor’s Distinguished Black Floridian Award at a Martin Luther King Jr. observance in St. Augustine, Florida.

Reubin O’D Askew (1889-1979)–Reubin O’Donovan Askew was born in 1928 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In 1937, he moved with his mother and five siblings to Pensacola, Florida. Mr. Askew served in two branches of the United States military, in both houses of the Florida Legislature, through an unprecedented two terms as Governor, as United States Trade Ambassador and as an Eminent Scholar in Florida Government and Politics at Florida State University. During his tenure as Florida’s 37th Governor, he became known as a progressive reformer for his forward-thinking leadership on civil rights, tax reform, judicial and executive reorganization and open accountable government. While serving in the Governor’s Office, he brought African Americans more fully into state government leadership. In 1971, Governor Askew appointed 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, he appointed Joseph Hatchett to the Florida Supreme Court; Hatchett was the first African American to serve on the state’s highest judicial body. In 1978, Governor Askew appointed Jesse McCrary Jr., an African-American former assistant attorney general, to 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. In addition, Governor Askew appointed McCrary as well as Freddie Grooms, an African-American professor, to the 1978 Constitution Revision Commission. In addition to many other honors and awards, in 1994, the Reubin O’D Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University was named for him and the Reubin O’D Askew Institute on Politics and Society was established at the University of Florida.

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