TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Three new members were inducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame during the sixth annual ceremony Wednesday.
The achievements of the new members -- the late Patricia Stephens Due, Dr. Arnett Elyus Girardeau Sr., and Willie H. Williams -- were hailed for paving the future successes of many modern day black leaders.
Due was a Florida A&M University student when she was arrested in 1960 during a sit-in at a whites-only Woolworth lunch counter in Tallahassee. It's now recognized as the first jail-in of the civil rights movement. She became a prominent civil rights activist in Florida and other parts of the country.
“Things did not happen just for them to happen. People made some things happen,” said Rondey L. Hurst Sr., a civil rights author and speaker at the event.
Due was inducted into the Florida Civil rights Hall of Fame posthumously.
“She came along and blazed a trail for not only black Republicans, but for (all) Republicans,” said inductee Girardeau.
Girardeau, a Jacksonville dentist who was elected to the Florida House in 1976 and was elected to the Senate six years later, is one of the founding members of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators. He became the first and only Black Senate President Pro Tempore.
"He was a trailblazer," Hurst said.
Girardeau’s activism in state politics laid the path for many that came after him, including former Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll.
“The sacrifices that you [Girardeau] 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,” Carroll said.
Inductee Williams, a FAMU graduate, served as president of the Orange County NAACP and was the first African-American hired in the engineering department of Martin Marietta Aerospace, now Lockheed Martin, in Orlando.
Each inductee has a plaque on the first floor of the State Capitol Building memorializing their achievements.
The memory of their accomplishments and efforts towards creating a more equal and just Florida will remain on display, with the hope of inspiring the next generation of civil rights activists.
The Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame now consists of 18 members.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.