Black History Month: Dr. Arnett Girardeau, Sr.

  • by Catherine Tortorici
  • February 15, 2022

 The political arena of Jacksonville has created champions of local and state policy for 200 years now. When considering whom to recognize as a pioneer for Black politicians in our city,  Dr. Arnett Girardeau, Sr. stood out amongst others due to his extensive resume of being “the first” to accomplish several feats. Prior to becoming a practicing dentist and the first black Senator of Florida following Reconstruction, Girardeau was a participant in 1960s sit-in demonstrations and Ax Handle Saturday. 

Following his appointment as Senator in 1982, Dr. Girardeau went on to become the  first—and so far only—Black person to serve as pro tempore of the Florida Senate. As the pro tempore, Girardeau signed legislation and issued the oath of office to new senators, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that Blacks in North/South Florida had the opportunity to elect leaders from their community into Congress.  

 Dr. Arnett Girardeau, Sr. Source: Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame

Girardeau succeeded in this goal by lobbying for new congressional district lines, which eventually led to the creation of District 3 (now known as District 5). Thanks to the combined efforts of Giraredau and other community organizers, the Honorable Corrine Brown became Florida’s first Black member of the United States House of Representatives since Reconstruction in 1992. Therefore, increasing Black representation and providing the hope necessary for Alvin Brown to eventually become Jacksonville's first Black mayor in 2011. 


 The Honorable Corrine Brown   Source: Online Guide to House Members and Senators   


 Alvin Brown Source: City of Jacksonville 


Written by Wilshem Pennick


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