Honoring St. Augustine Civil Rights Heroes

Gwendolyn Duncan reported to Historic City News that St. Augustine civil rights heroes will be honored in 2009 — the year that marks the 45th Anniversary of the Signing of the Landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The ACCORD/Northrop Grumman Freedom Trail Project Committee is off to an early start by announcing two “high profile” Speakers for the next Freedom Trail Luncheon: Attorney Willie E. Gary and Mr. Leon Russell, NACCP National Board Member.

Attorney Willie Gary is living the American Dream according to Duncan. Gary’s amazing success has earned him national recognition as a leading trial attorney. Gary went on to become co-captain of Shaw’s football team. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Gary went to North Carolina Central University where he earned a Juris Doctorate in 1974. Gary returned home to Florida with his childhood sweetheart, Gloria, who was now his wife. Attorney Gary addressing over 300 students, faculty, community members, government officials and religious leaders during the University of South Florida’s Black History Program stated, “Many great men and women have sacrificed and fought hard for civil rights.

Mr. Leon Russell, National Board of Directors of the NAACP. Leon W. Russell currently serves as the Director of the Office of Human Rights for Pinellas County Government, Clearwater, Florida. Mr. Russell served as the President of the Florida State Conference of Branches of the NAACP from January 1996 until January 2000, after serving for fifteen years as the First Vice President. He also serves as a member of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP, having been first elected in 1990. He has served that board as the assistant secretary and currently serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Board.

Russell is a member of the International City Management Association; a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators; a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies; Chair of the Minority issues Advisory Council of the Children’s Campaign of Florida; past President of the Alternative Human Services Board of Directors; volunteer for the United Way of Pinellas County; past Board Member of the Pinellas Opportunity Council, past President and Board Member of the National Association of Human Rights Workers; and as past President of the Florida Association Of Community Relations Professionals.

The Civil Rights Act was enacted by the 88th Congress, to enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purpose on July 2, 1964.

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