Celebrating Broward’s Black History-Makers
Recognizing Local Leaders During Black History Month
In 2013, Eunique Jones Gibson created the hashtag #Becauseofthemwecan to celebrate Black History Month. Inspired by her sons, she used a photo campaign where children appeared as iconic black figures as a way of connecting the dots between the past and present.
The campaign led to a larger conversation on how we celebrate Black History Month. People of all ages saw what they could be through the images of beautiful children. They also saw the history-makers they were celebrating were not only the iconic people we read about in history books but also people who live, work and play in communities just like theirs.
This Black History Month, we introduce you to a few history-makers who have made and are making a difference in Broward County. Their work often goes unnoticed by the community at large, but to the children, families and organizations they serve, they are extended family. To United Way of Broward County, they are also partners in the fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Broward County.
This month – and every day – we celebrate these history-makers. They represent black excellence, inspiring the next generation to dream bigger and to serve wholeheartedly. Happy Black History Month.
25 Black History-Makers
W. George Allen, a prominent civil rights attorney who lived in Fort Lauderdale and played a major role in integrating Broward County’s school district, was the first black student to earn a law degree from the University of Florida.
Col. Nichole Anderson is the first black woman (and the first woman) to serve as Broward Sheriff Office’s second in command. She was appointed by Sheriff Gregory Tony.
Florence Taylor Barner is the first Broward County judge of Haitian descent.
Chester A. Byrd, Jr., was the first black mayor of Dania.
Samuel Brown was the first black mayor in Broward County, serving the city of Lauderdale Lakes.
Samuel Delevoe was one of Fort Lauderdale’s first black police officers and worked to build bridges between the black community and the police force. Together with his wife, educator and activist Dr. Lois Delevoe – who, among many other activities, opened the first black credit union – he worked hard to improve life for many in Fort Lauderdale.
Dr. Joseph A. Ely was the first black principal in Broward County, heading Dillard High School. Among many community activities, he and his wife, Blanche General Ely (principal of another school) sponsored the first federally funded lunch program in Broward County.
Gregory Haile is the first black president of Broward College.
Dale Holness, current Mayor of Broward County, is the first Jamaican American mayor in the county.
Rev. B.F. James was the first teacher in Broward’s first school for black students, established in 1903 in the city of Deerfield.
Barrington Irving, an aerospace student at Broward College, in 2007 was the youngest person to pilot a plane around the world solo. He was also the first black person and first Jamaican to accomplish this feat.
Floyd Johnson was the first black county administrator in Florida.
Dr. Von Mizell was the first black surgeon in Broward County and partnered with Dr. James Sistrunk in establishing Provident Hospital, the first hospital to serve the black community in Broward County. Mizell and Eula Johnson pressured Broward County for years to have at least one beach for African Americans, then led wade-ins in Fort Lauderdale in 1961 that led to desegregation of the county’s beaches the following year. Mizell also started the first NAACP chapter in South Florida.
Charles B. Morton, Jr., in 1976 became the first black prosecutor in Broward County, and eventually became the highest-ranking African American prosecutor in Florida.
Eugene K. Pettis in 2013 became the first black president of the Florida Bar Association.
Thomas J. Reddick, Jr., was the first black attorney to open an office and practice law in Broward County, and was the first black circuit court judge in Florida.
Margaret Blake Roach was first African American and female member of the Broward County College Board of Trustees and founding President of the Broward County chapter of the Urban League.
Robert Runcie was named the first permanent black superintendent of Broward County Public Schools in 2011.
Barbara Sharief was Broward County’s first black female and Muslim mayor.
Dr. James Sistrunk was the first black medical doctor to practice in Fort Lauderdale and the only one for almost 16 years. He co-founded and operated Provident Hospital with Dr. Von Mizell.
Gregory Tony is Broward County’s first black sheriff, appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in 2019.
Dr. Katherine C. Wright was the first black woman elected to the Broward County School Board and the first African American elected to countywide office.