The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law honored Sen. Arthenia L. Joyner, D-Tampa, with its 2013 Distinguished Civil Rights Advocate Award.
The former president of the National Bar Association received the award during a reception on the occasion of the NBA’s 88th Annual Convention in Miami.
A private practice attorney for 44 years, longer than any other African-American woman in Florida, Sen. Joyner also serves as of counsel to Vanguard Attorneys, a personal injury law firm in Tampa. She was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000, followed by a successful run for the Florida Senate in 2006.
Joyner was the first black female attorney in Hillsborough County and will soon become the first African-American woman leader of the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus.
“Sen. Joyner’s outstanding life’s work has eliminated barriers to social justice and economic opportunity, and she has selflessly helped to move America toward justice,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Barbara R. Arnwine.
“Her breadth of accomplishments spans several decades and began when, as a young woman in high school, she participated in sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters at Woolworth in Tampa and joined protesters to integrate the Florida Theatre in Tallahassee.”
Sen. Joyner is also an advocate for international justice and human rights. She was a leader in the movement to end apartheid in South Africa and was jailed for protesting against apartheid.
“As a child, I was taught by my parents that those to whom much is given, much is required,” said Joyner during her acceptance remarks.
“And they also showed me, firsthand, their determination to never let the deep divisions still rampant in the South stop them from teaching their children that anything worth having was worth fighting for.”
Recalling the terror in her small Florida hometown as the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan swept through the streets and her father quickly hustled the family together and doused the lights to shield them in darkness, Sen. Joyner commented, “These values and these principles I learned steered me through the good and the bad times, and, like a childhood blanket, they remained to comfort me through trials and tests of character.
“The ability to emerge from the protection of darkness to speak freely in the light for equality and justice remained with me through those protest years at FAMU, through demonstrations to end apartheid in South Africa, and remain with me still as an attorney and a state senator. They remain with me still as I continue to fight for equality and justice — no longer from the floor of a Tallahassee jail cell — but on the floor of the Florida Senate,” Sen. Joyner said.
Her accomplishments in the Florida Legislature include introducing legislation that would restrict the use of restraints on incarcerated women who are pregnant, in labor or postpartum; banning legislation that denies parole to offenders under 18; and pressing for legislation that would expand early voting opportunities in Florida.
Joyner also has assumed leadership roles in support of women’s rights, diversity, and access to justice that include serving as state director of Women in Government, national vice president of the National Organization of Elected Legislative Women, and as an advisory council member of the Women’s Legislative Network.
She has received numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures, The President’s Award from Florida A&M University, and the Teamsters National Black Caucus Trailblazers Award.