Jacksonville man inducted into Fla. Civil Rights Hall of Fame

Honoring a civil rights leader

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A Jacksonville man known for his work as a civil rights leader is now being inducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

There's a short street off Moncrief Road that leads to a dead end. But the name plastered on its sign is that of a man who went far beyond expectations. Those who live along Rutledge Pearson Drive are proud of the community legend.

"He had done some great things," said Lloyd Pearson. "But I believe there was something greater down the road if he had just lived."

Pearson speaks proudly of his younger brother, Rutledge, who reports say died in a car crash in 1967.

"Car was supposed to hit a bridge he said but there was no scars in his face," said Pearson. "But the back of his head looked like someone had beat him with a club."

Those were dangerous times and Rutledge Pearson took on a precarious job. In 1961, he was elected President of the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP and later elected President of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP.

"He was fearful but he didn't let fear cause him not to do," said Pearson. "He told me one day we were riding, he said, 'You know some people talking about I'm not scared. I'm just as scared as the rest of them, but I just keep going.'"

He led peaceful demonstrations fighting against segregation, injustices he and his six siblings had endured for far too long.

"It was supposed to be separate but equal," said Pearson. "It was separate but a long ways from being equal. When you go in the black school and the white school, the black school looked like a chicken coop compared to the white school."

Rutledge Pearson was also an American history teacher who firmly believed in the power of education. A elementary school on Roanoke Boulevard now bears his name, along with a bridge on Moncrief Road in a city where he was once treated as less than.

Rutledge Pearson, Earl M. Johnson, and Jesse McCrary, Jr. will all be induced into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame during a ceremony on May 11 in Tallahassee.


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