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Arthenia Joyner honored for 50 years as civil rights activist in Tampa Bay

Posted at 4:04 PM, Jan 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-06 17:34:22-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Arthenia Joyner knew she wanted to be a lawyer since 5th grade.

She was inspired by Thurgood Marshall, the nation’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

Her parents supported her dream all the way.

“My mom said always be true to your convictions and stand up and speak out in what you believe in even if you have to do it alone,” Joyner said.

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Overcoming racism, segregation, and the Jim Crow laws, Joyner graduated law school in 1968 and became Polk County’s first black lawyer.

No one would hire her, so she took out a loan to open her own practice.

Later she was Hillsborough County’s first black woman to be an attorney.

“I just had to blaze my own trail and because all of my life had been a fight as a black woman for equality this was just a continuation of life in that vain, but I had tools now to fight it with.”

Along the way, Joyner turned to politics .

She served in the Florida house and senate and is most proud of helping pass a law giving compensation for people who are wrongly put in prison.

She has worked with civil rights leaders and guided presidential campaigns.

But her greatest achievement may be opening doors so others can follow.

“I stood up and spoke out and would not accept anything less than being treated equally.”

Joyner says she found her passion in life and is not done yet.

“And I intend to do it as long as the mind and body hold up and right now they are in good shape.”