Gov. Rick Scott honored three civil rights activists in a standing room only ceremony into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame at the Capitol on Wednesday, May 13 at 11 a.m.
The 2015 Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame inductees were: Reubin O’Donovan Askew, Edward Daniel Davis, Sr., and Sallye Brooks Mathis. Each of these individuals played a significant role and advocated for change and equality among African Americans.
The great-grandfather of Florida A&M University alumnus, councilman Terence Davis, a city commissioner in district five of Riviera Beach Fla., shared his thoughts.
“As a giant, I can stand on the shoulders that he really presented before us,” Davis said. “If you look at voter suppression right now and what’s going on in America with voting rights, this is 50 years later from what he started.”
According to a news release, Davis was an author, businessman and educator who broke barriers for African-American teachers by raising their salary, assisting with desegregating the University of Florida (UF), demanded minorities to be enrolled in UF’s law school.
“How ironic; 50 years later he’s going into a civil rights hall of fame of Florida who is really the signature for education,” Davis said.
Davis is a native of Thomasville, Ga. and spent most of his adult life in Ocala, Fla. He was the first African American to receive a master’s degree in the state of Fla. in 1934.
Davis’ former students and family members traveled from all over the United States to witness the induction.
Davis said, “People I’ve never met before but heard stories about, walked up to me and said, ‘Excuse me, I want to let you know that I’m your great-grandfather student.’”
Davis taught in Jacksonville Fla. and served as an assistant principal in Ocala and Tampa, Fla. within a 15-year period. He also taught at FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University.
Chester Sims II, former retired writer and an actor, 72, spent a lot of time with Davis and supported him throughout the tumultuous era.
“The man was a renaissance man and he infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan,” Sims said. “So, the man kept a paper trail, which kind of helped keep him alive as well.”
Sims referenced many experiences that he endured in the 1960s and 1970s such as when a white man decided to spit on him and he couldn’t retaliate.
He founded several organizations and co-founded organizations with Supreme Court member Thurgood Marshall, such as the Florida’s Voter League to increase African-American voter registration and the Florida Teachers Association, an organization to promote African-American teachers to receive equal pay as whites and equality for black children education and desks.
Also, Davis worked closely with Harry T. Moore, a civil rights activist whose house was bombed with him and his family in it, excluding one of his children that was attending Howard University on the night of his 25th wedding anniversary around Christmas.
He was the first African American to have a state road named after him in Orlando, Fla., called Edward Daniel Davis, Sr. Memorial Highway. Davis was a prominent figure in civil rights and left a legacy behind in 1989, it will forever live on.
Davis son was expected to attend the ceremony but died on Tuesday and the funeral will be held on Saturday, May 16.