Senator Arthenia L. Joyner is a dynamic individual whose personal life reads like a chronicle of the struggle for equal justice. She has not just lived history, she made it. Senator Joyner is Of Counsel at Vanguard Attorneys in Tampa, FL, practicing in the area of personal injury. Born in Lakeland FL and reared in Tampa, she grew up in a time of segregation and has always been determined to end it. Senator Joyner began her long march for equality as a high school student in Tampa protesting for change. That journey took her to jail cells in Tallahassee during her undergraduate years at Florida A&M University when she was twice arrested for demonstrating against segregation. When president of the National Bar Association, she was arrested for protesting apartheid outside of the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.
A graduate of the FAMU College of Law, she was Florida’s fifth black woman lawyer, the first black female lawyer in Hillsborough County, the first black lawyer in Polk County and the first black female lawyer in the Florida Senate. Upon graduation, she could not find anyone willing to hire a black woman lawyer so she hired herself, opening her own successful practice. Joyner has practiced law for fifty (50) years – longer than any black woman in the history of Florida.
Joyner entered politics in the early ‘70s when she chaired the Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign, and Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns, and co-coordinator of Lawton Chiles’ 1990 gubernatorial campaign, and Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign in Tampa.
Joyner was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000, and the Florida Senate in 2008. In 2014, her colleagues elected her to serve as the first black woman to lead the Senate Democratic Caucus.
As a state lawmaker, she passed legislation requiring the state to compensate wrongfully incarcerated persons, the unshackling of pregnant female inmates when giving birth, requiring a study on black-infant mortality and prohibiting the mutilation of female genitals. She was also at the forefront of the drive to restore civil rights for ex-felons, and assisted those needing help navigating the often-difficult process.
Senator Joyner is the recipient of numerous awards, including appointments by President Clinton to the U.S. Delegation to the Population Conference in Cairo, Egypt (1994) and the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, China (1995). Other awards include the Hillsborough County Women’s Hall of Fame, the Girl Scouts Women of Distinction Hall of Fame, Florida Justice Association’s Perry Nichols Award, Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero Award, League of Women Voters Lifetime Achievement Award, Junior League Luminaries Award, Aaron’s House Legend Award and the Florida Bar Legislative Award. The Board of County Commissioners and the Tampa-Hillsborough Library Board recently celebrated her many contributions to Florida and the community by naming its new $9.3 million library in her honor.
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