SHARECOMMENTMORE

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A dramatic and ultimately tragic scene took place at City Hall on Thursday, when prominent Jacksonville Dentist and longtime civic leader Dr. Chester Aikens died after collapsing in the building's lobby.

Aikens, a member of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority board and friend and mentor to Mayor Alvin Brown, was at City Hall for a meeting of the Retirement Reform Task Force, of which he is also a member.

The board is discussing changes to the Police and Fire Pension Fund. As it happens, the two men who performed emergency CPR on Aikens before paramedics arrived were none other than Randy Wyse and Mark Treglio, president and vice president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.

Wyse told First Coast News that Aikens had no discernible pulse when they began chest compressions and mouth to mouth resuscitation. He had regained a pulse and begun breathing by the time paramedics arrived, and was taken by ambulance to Baptist Hospital, accompanied by Mayor Brown.

According to those close to the situation, he suffered an additional cardiac arrest. Baptist Hospital confirmed Aikens died this afternoon.

Aikens, an African-American, memorably integrated the all-white Florida Yacht Club in 1993, two years after being rejected for membership. One of those who nominated Aikens for membership is local attorney Bill Scheu, also chair of the pension task force.

Scheu said late today he was "deeply saddened" by the loss of his friend.

Mayor Brown released this statement Thursday evening:

"Dr. Chester Aikens was a trailblazer and community leader who always cared deeply about helping others. He was also a man of strong faith. His loss is devastating for Jacksonville.

"At the time of his passing, Chester served on the Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force, the Jacksonville Civic Council and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. He was a businessman who never hesitated to volunteer his time and energy to make our city a better place.

"For decades, Chester was my close friend and mentor. I will miss him greatly but take comfort in knowing he is with the Lord."