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Florida honors civil rights champions

Earl Johnson, Rutledge Pearson and Jesse McCrary Jr. inducted into Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame
Earl Johnson, Rutledge Pearson and Jesse McCrary Jr. inducted into Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Segregated schools, parks, and hospitals don’t seem possible today, but the people who lived through it and helped change it remember the struggle.

Go to your local park and you might take for granted the playground, the nature, the trails.

How about the people? All shapes and sizes, every creed and color.

Florida immortalized one of the men responsible for helping to desegregate parks around the state Wednesday

But it wasn’t just parks. Earl Johnson helped desegregate schools and water fountains. His son summed up what the honor meant for his family, and how his dad, based out of Jacksonville, changed the state for the better.

“He filed 36 of the 37 school desegregation cases, and so it’s an honor," said Earl Johnson Jr. "And of course it was all done pro-bono, there was no money in it, but there was, what I would say, great riches in the work.”

For another nominee, the fight for equality started on the baseball diamond

Rutledge Pearson dedicated his life to civil rights after he wasn't allowed to play professional baseball in Jacksonville when city officials decided to close the park rather than integrate.

"Young people today, they don’t understand that, and that’s why it’s important that we teach our young people about the history, without your history you don’t have a future," said Rutledge Pearson Jr. 

Along with Jesse McCrary Jr, Florida's first black secretary of state, the three will forever be remembered as men who helped shape the state.

This is the fifth class to go into the state’s Civil Rights hall of fame, which is housed on the plaza level of the state Capitol.