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Jury Assembly Room in the Duval Courthouse named for D.W. Perkins

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D.W. Perkins Jury Assembly Room

The jury assembly room at the Duval County Courthouse was officially dedicated the Daniel Webster Perkins Jury Assembly Room June 15 in honor of the pioneering Black lawyer and namesake of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association.

D.W. Perkins

D.W. Perkins

Perkins (1879-1972) was a legal trailblazer whose work included fighting for a more equitable justice system through his efforts to desegregate juries.

In a Facebook post, the Perkins Bar said the dedication would not have been possible without the “vision, legacy, and commitment” of the following people:

  • Camilla P. Thompson, daughter of D.W. Perkins.
  • Reginald D. Thompson, grandson of D.W. Perkins.
  • Retired Duval County Judge Pauline M. Drake.
  • Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Mark H. Mahon.
  • United States District Judge Brian J. Davis.
  • Obinna Anum, immediate past president of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association.
  • Craig Shoup, executive director of the Jacksonville Bar Association.

Perkins, a member of the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame, was one of Florida’s first African American lawyers, having been officially admitted to The Florida Bar in 1914.  

D.W. Perkins Jury Assembly Room

Melina Buncome, from the left, Kimberly Leonard, Judge Brian Davis, Jasmine Alexander, Shayla Lee, and Goose (New Horizon Service Dog in training) at the D.W. Perkins Jury Assembly Room dedication. The women are all assistant public defenders in the Fourth Circuit.

Perkins was born on January 9, 1879, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He earned degrees from North Carolina State Normal College in 1897, Temple University in 1899, and Shaw University Law School in 1902. After practicing law in Knoxville and Tampa, he settled in Jacksonville in 1919, where he practiced until his death in 1972.

​”During his illustrious career, Attorney Perkins held positions of trust or authority in a host of professional, educational, civic and political organizations, including Masons, Knights of Pythias, Elks, Samaritans, Odd Fellows, Eastern Star, Heroines, Masonic Templars, Woodsmen, Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, Business Men’s League, Afro-American Council, Civic League, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, U.S. Military Officers Training School, Florida Normal College, Bethune-Cookman College, Shaw University, NAACP, Urban League, YMCA, Negro Business League, National Bar Association, Colored Lawyers Association and Shriners,” according to the D.W. Perkins Bar. “He was also State Chairman of the WPA Advisory Educational Council and Secretary of the State NYA Advisory Council.”

In 1942, Perkins wrote an article for The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP, which was featuring African-American life in Jacksonville. With regard to the Black lawyers in Jacksonville, Perkins wrote, “From earliest times the colored lawyer here was educated, polished, cultured and refined and had enough common sense to obtain and retain the confidence, respect and good will of the Bench, Bar, officers and the public.”  He continued, “Graduated in the best law colleges of the country, they easily rank among the best in America whether judged from the standpoint of their winning laurels or accomplishing much to protect the constitutional rights of the Race.” 

Perkins distinguished himself as a proponent of civil rights, a community leader, and a member of the Bar who was genuinely interested in the careers of his younger Black colleagues.  Accordingly, in 1968, the former Colored Lawyers Association changed its name in honor of D.W. Perkins, who had  been a founding member. 

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