Three Civil Rights stal­warts cho­sen for the Hall of Fame

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By K. BAR­RETT BILALI which the three men were cho­sen.

MIAMI - Three civil rights lead­ers will be in­ducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

Marvin Davies, Rev­erend Wil­lie Oliver Wells Sr., and John Dorsey Due Jr. will be hon­ored with the pres­ti­gious des­ig­na­tion on June 7 at a for­mal cer­e­mony in Tal­la­has­see.

Gov­er­nor Rick Scott an­nounced their names ear­lier this month.

Florida’s State Com­mis­sion of Hu­man Re­la­tions pro­vided the gov­er­nor with a list of ten pos­si­ble nom­i­nees from

John D. Due, Jr.

At­tor­ney and long­time ac­tivist John D. Due arrived in Florida af­ter grow­ing up in In­di­ana to at­tend FAMU law school. He had al­ready been ac­tive in civil rights in his birth state of In­di­ana as a mem­ber of the NAACP Col­lege Chap­ter at In­di­ana Univer­sity in the late-1950s. While still in law school, he par­tic­i­pated in the Free­dom Rides to de­seg­re­gate buses by help­ing lo­cal lawyers to do re­search in de­fense of stu­dents ar­rested dur­ing protests.

In 1960, Due was one of the five FAMU stu­dents jailed in Tal­la­has­see for 49 days af­ter re­fus­ing to pay a fine for sit­ting-in at a Wool­worth lunch counter.

Pa­tri­cia Stephens, who was also jailed at the sit-in, would be­come Due’s wife three years later. The cou­ple would at­tend the March on Wash­ing­ton in Au­gust 1963 to­gether. Both re­mained stal­wart ac­tivists in the civil rights strug­gle.

Af­ter ac­cep­tance into the Florida Bar Due be­came le­gal coun­sel to CORE, South­ern Chris­tian Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence (SCLC) and gave le­gal ad­vice to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He was one of the first at­tor­neys to use a le­gal tac­tic called Pe­ti­tions of Re­moval to move cases against civil rights ac­tivists out of bi­ased state courts and into fed­eral courts. Due’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the civil rights era was so ef­fec­tive that the FBI mon­i­tored his ac­tiv­i­ties and main­tained a 400-page file.

Mar vin Davies

Marvin Davies also at­tended Florida AM Univer­sity. While still a stu­dent he par­tic­i­pated in ma­jor civil rights protests in Tal­la­has­see and St. Au­gus­tine. Davies was on the front­lines of right­ing the wrongs of the Jim Crow so­ci­ety as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and spokesman for the Florida State Con­fer­ence of the N.A.A.C.P.

Davies was a na­tive Florid­ian, born in Brad­ford County, who had ex­pe­ri­enced dis­crim­i­na­tion and racism through­out his youth. He served his coun­try in the U.S. Army be­fore at­tend­ing col­lege. He grad­u­ated from FAMU in 1959 and was the salu­ta­to­rian of his class.

Davies served as state co­or­di­na­tor for the Martin Luther King Jr. Foun­da­tion and was a spe­cial as­sis­tant to Gov­er­nor Bob Gra­ham and later served on Gra­ham’s Se­nate staff.

Davies passed away in 2003. Two months later, Florida passed the Marvin Davies Civil Rights Act of 2003. Be­cause of this law, the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Florida is now able to ini­ti­ate a civil rights ac­tions when clear ev­i­dence of dis­crim­i­na­tion is un­cov­ered or for issues of pub­lic con­cern.

Davies name is en­shrined in the laws of the State of Florida. Now it will also be seen for gen­er­a­tions to come in the Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

Rev­erend Wil­liam Oliver Wells Sr

Rev. Wil­liam O. Wells Sr. was born in the “brown sub­di­vi­sion” of Miami in 1931.

He at­tended Dil­lard High School in 1949 be­fore at­tend­ing Bethune-Cook­man Col­lege in Day­tona on a foot­ball schol­ar­ship. He then joined the U.S. Army where he served in Ger­many.

Upon re­turn­ing to the United States, he en­tered the min­istry.

For fifty years, Wells pa­s­tored the Greater St. Paul Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church in Co­coa, which was the lo­cal cen­ter for civil rights ac­tiv­i­ties. From this base, he would par­tic­i­pate in Free­dom Rides deep into Alabama and Mis­sis­sippi.

“At that time, blacks were barred from pub­lic beaches, parks, re­strooms and restau­rants, in Bre­vard County and else­where. Rev. Wells worked to change the op­pres­sive “Jim Crow” laws. Dur­ing the early 1960s, Rev. Wells was a Free­dom Rider who led non-vi­o­lent civil protests,” ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled the Roots of Rev. W. O. Wells.

“He was an orig­i­nal mem­ber of the South­ern Chris­tian Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence -–along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–- and dur­ing his life­time Rev. Wells spear­headed many projects to com­bat racism, poverty, drug abuse and crime. He was in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing about de­seg­re­ga­tion in Bre­vard County, where he led anti-seg­re­ga­tion cam­paigns and held var­i­ous civic lead­er­ship po­si­tions.”

Wells passed away in 2015 at the age of 84.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF FLORIDAMEMORY.COM

CIVIL RIGHTS LEG­ENDS: John Due, left, is be­ing in­ducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame with Marvin Davies, cen­ter, and Rev.Wil­lie Oliver Wells Sr.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF FLCIVILRIGHTSHALLOFFAME.COM

Florid­i­ans who have strug­gled for the cause of equal­ity are hon­ored in the Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

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