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James Sanderlin inducted into Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame

As a young lawyer, James B. Sanderlin led school desegregation efforts in Pinellas County and established himself as a local civil rights giant. Later, he became the county's first African-American judge.

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott selected Sanderlin to be inducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame. A renowned leader of local civil rights efforts, Sanderlin was among three people chosen for induction in the Hall of Fame from a list of 10 nominees.

"As Florida marks its five hundred year anniversary, we want to honor individuals who have stood for equality in our state's history, even in the face of adversity," Scott said in a news release. "These champions of freedom have paved the way for equal rights among all Floridians."

More than 20 years after his death, Sanderlin's legacy is still seen in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

A native of Petersburg, Va., he came to Pinellas County in 1962, forgoing a career as a lawyer in the nation's capital in order to help spur the area's budding civil rights movement.

He sued the Pinellas County School Board to bring an end to separate schools based on race. The effort led to a federal desegregation order.

He also represented the city's sanitation workers, most of whom were black, in a bid to bring them equal pay. And he sued the city on behalf of 12 black police officers so that they could earn professional advancement by patrolling the entire city rather than just black neighborhoods.

In 1972, Sanderlin was elected Pinellas County's first black judge. In 1985, Gov. Bob Graham appointed him as the first black judge to sit on the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

James Sanderlin inducted into Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame 02/28/13 [Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 10:09pm]
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