Arnett Girardeau, a dentist and civil rights pioneer who represented Jacksonville in the Florida House from 1976 to 1982 and the Florida Senate from 1982 to 1992, has died at age 88.
He was the first African-American elected outside of Miami since Reconstruction. He served as Senate President Pro Tempore from 1988-1990 and was a founding member of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators.
Girardeau’s activism in state politics laid the path for many who came after him, including former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who in June presented him with an award as he was inducted into the Civil Rights Hall of Fame. While Girardeau was a lifelong Democrat and Carroll a Republican, she sought his council during her political career.
"Over 17 years ago, when I was making my decision to run for Congress, he and I talked about my run and the differences in the parties," Carroll told News4Jax on Friday.
"He was a trailblazer," civil rights author Rondey Hurst Sr. said of him at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, announced Girardeau’s death in a news release sent to WJCT News on Thursday.
"I was saddened today to learn of the death of former State Sen. Arnett E. Girardeau, DDS," Lawson said. "All Floridians are grateful for his principled leadership and service to our state and our country. Sen. Girardeau’s commitment to serving the people of Jacksonville and the state of Florida is unparalleled."
Girardeau attended Howard University where he earned his doctor of dentistry.