Governor creates Civil Rights Hall of Fame

Today, Governor Charlie Crist ceremonially signed House Bill 523, which creates the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame, joined by bill sponsors Representative Alan Williams and Senator Tony Hill.

Later today, he will address supporters of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) at the fifth annual Governor’s Luncheon in Jacksonville.

“Many courageous Floridians have made tremendous sacrifices so that every man, woman and child who call the Sunshine State home can experience equal opportunity and enjoy civil rights,” Governor Crist said. “I am privileged to sign legislation that will honor the heroes who fought for civil rights in our state.”

The legislation creates the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame, which will honor Floridians who have made significant contributions and provided exemplary leadership toward Florida’s progress and achievements in civil rights. It will be located in a public area inside the Capitol Building, as designated by the Department of Management Services in consultation with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Each year, the commission will accept nominations and recommend 10 persons to the Governor, who will select up to three members. Honorees may be alive or recognized posthumously.

“I applaud Governor Crist for his forward thinking and forever changing the history of our state. For years, we have worked to be inclusive of all Floridians, and Governor Crist has not only shared that vision, but championed it,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP. “I would like to express a hearty, ‘Thank you,’ to both State Senator Tony Hill and State Representative Alan Williams for their sponsorship and vision of the bill, along with securing its passage.”

Opportunity for All Floridians

Governor Crist has led the way on several initiatives that increase opportunity for all Floridians. In February 2009, Governor Crist called on Adora Obi Nweze to serve as Special Advisor to the Governor on Minority Affairs.

At Governor Crist’s urging, the Clemency Board voted in April 2007 for the expedited restoration of civil rights for those who have paid their debt to society. When a person’s civil rights are restored, it removes a significant barrier for certain employment licenses, as well as reinstates the person’s right to vote, serve on a jury and hold public office. From April 2007 to September 2010, 153,190 individuals received restored civil rights, in addition to 1,176 individuals whose rights were granted between January and April 2007. In comparison, prior to 2007, an average of 6,945 ex-offenders received their restored civil rights each year. If the rule had not been changed, the civil rights of 125,410 individuals would most likely not have been restored.

Additionally, Governor Crist has supported and signed legislation that requires the Florida State Board of Administration to identify all investments of the Florida Retirement System in companies conducting certain types of business operations with either Iran or Sudan. In 2003, as Attorney General, Governor Crist proposed and secured passage of the Marvin Davies Civil Rights Act, which for the first time in our state’s history provides the Attorney General with the authority to initiate civil rights actions.

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

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