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Florida Bar chooses first Black president

admin | 1/25/2012, 7:30 a.m.

Attorney Eugene K. Pettis selected by his peers

Fort Lauderdale attorney, Eugene K. Pettis, 51, has been chosen as the next president of The Florida Bar. When he is sworn in as president-elect at the Bars annual convention in June 2012, and takes over in 2013, he will become the first Black to hold the position. Its an honor to be recognized by my colleagues and we have 93,000 lawyers in the state that are members of The Florida Bar, he said. Its assuring to know they feel I am worthy to serve as their president and I am proud that we have finally broken the race barrier. The Bar was a voluntary organization in 1907 and became a unified, or mandatory organization in 1951. Either date you chose, its clear that we have waited way too long and ignored quality people of color who were able and worthy to serve but were not allowed. I am glad we are on the brink of removing one of the barriers but there are many others that must follow like gender. Pettis, a co-founder of Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm, attended the University of Florida and then the University of Floridas Levin College of Law. The firm was founded in 1996. When he takes over as president of The Florida Bar, he will represent the countrys second-largest bar with a membership in excess of 95,000 attorneys. I will be working in Tallahassee to advocate for the court system to make sure there is adequate funding, he said. Over the past few years we have seen a shortage of money and a disruption of the court system. My goal will be to work with the legislation and the governor to secure a dedicated source of funding. Pettis says there are other topics that while not specifically listed under the duties of his job, he plans to focus on when he becomes president, including: greater diversity among the leadership of The Florida Bar; mentoring and developing young attorneys; and pushing for a better public education system. In Broward County over 53 percent of our Black boys are not graduating from high school, he said. I grew up in Fort Lauderdale and when I visit the jails I often run into old friends or classmates. When we allow young boys to fail and not complete school, we are providing the perfect pipeline to the prison system. Miami-Dade County is in a similar state. We have to begin having some serious dialogue on how to change these issues. The numbers and statistics come out year after year its time that Black professionals commit themselves to ending this cycle. By D. Kevin McNeir kmcneir@miamitimesonline.com