Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Marvin Davies, John Dorsey Due, Jr. and Reverend Dr. Willie Oliver Wells, Sr. were officially inducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame for 2018.
“These three individuals have made a great impact on the civil rights movement in the Sunshine State, and I am excited to distinguish them by inducting them into 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 have improved our state and country for the better,” concluded Wilson.
MARVIN DAVIES (1934-2003)
Born in 1934 in Bradford County, Florida, Marvin Davies earned his degree in 1959 from Florida A&M University, ranking second in his class of 341 and selected as student of the year. During his time at Florida A&M, Mr. Davies joined Dr. King to participate in protests in Tallahassee, St. Augustine and Montgomery, Alabama. Named field secretary and eventually Executive Director of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, he served as spokesman for Florida’s 138 NAACP branches. In this role, he was a passionate and committed spokesman for civil rights, stating that his job was “to assist the branches in focusing toward the implementation of the total 1964 Civil Rights Act.” Mr. Davies served as a state coordinator of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation and was appointed a special assistant to Governor Bob Graham, where he also served on Bob Graham’s Senate staff. A section of the Florida Statutes (s. 760.121, F.S.), passed in 2003 by the Florida Legislature was named the “ Mr. Marvin Davies Florida Civil Rights Act” and authorizes the Attorney General to commence a civil action for damages, relief and penalties for repeated discriminatory practices.
JOHN DORSEY DUE, Jr. (1934-present)
John Dorsey Due, Jr., was born in Indiana, but adopted Florida as his home state in 1960, when he enrolled in Florida A&M Law School. He graduated in 1963, the same year he married jail-in leader Patricia Stephens. A self-proclaimed “freedom lawyer” and longtime community activist, Mr. Due worked as an attorney in Mississippi during Freedom Summer on behalf of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to monitor violence against civil rights workers. As an attorney for the Congress of Racial Equality, he helped pioneer the tactic of moving civil rights cases to federal court to avoid biased southern state courts. He also organized sanitation workers and other unions to fight poverty. In Miami, as a member of the Dade County Community Relations Board and the Community Action Agency and as director of the Office of Black Affairs, Mr. Due’s work focused on welfare rights, quality education, immigration and community policing. He helped establish a national model for community policing in West Perrine with the NAACP and then state attorney Janet Reno. Mr. Due served as lead attorney in the long-running desegregation case against Dade County Public Schools. He also helped secure the release of 500 Haitian refugee children. Mr. Due has continued his community activism in Quincy and Tallahassee, Florida, with a focus on restorative justice and the elimination of mass prison incarceration.
REVEREND DR. WILLIE OLIVER WELLS, Sr. (1931-2015)
Reverend Dr. Willie Oliver Wells, Sr. , throughout his lifetime, spearheaded numerous sit-ins, stand-ins, freedom rides and other anti-segregation and equal rights demonstrations in Brevard County, Florida. He was instrumental in helping to desegregate local establishments, such as public schools, drug stores, lunch counters, hotels, movie theaters, public beaches, restaurants and places of employment. While serving as the President of the Brevard County NAACP, he advocated for the rights of the local African-American community to the Cocoa City Council. Dr. Wells organized an NAACP Youth Group to conduct sit-ins at the Woolworth lunch counter and Campbell’s Drugstore in Cocoa, and picketed and shut down a Georgia store after the store owner slapped and falsely accused a black woman of stealing a piece of meat. Appointed and served as a Commissioner by Governor Reuben Askew to the Florida Commission on Human Relations; served several terms.