School Named to Honor Member of Judicial Council
By Bishop Adam J. Richardson, 11th Episcopal District
The Hillsborough County School Board recently voted to honor a veteran Tampa, Florida civil rights lawyer by naming its new Elementary School: “The Warren Hope Dawson Elementary School.” Attorney Dawson, of the 11th District, was elected as a lay member of the Judicial Council of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at our General Conference this past summer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
While the School Board acknowledged Dawson’s many accomplishments and recognition’s that qualified him as an “Outstanding Citizen” worthy of recognition, this honor was particularly based on the fact that Dawson had—over many years—“rendered outstanding public service to public education.” Specifically, it was Dawson, a veteran civil rights lawyer, who labored in the Federal Courts for 27 years in efforts to eliminate separate and unequal schools for the children of this very large school district. He was the lawyer primarily responsible for the day-to-day, month-to-month, and school year-to-school year legal work that sought to dismantle the dual (Black/White) school system(s) that had existed for as long as public schools had existed in Hillsborough County.
It is a fact of our history that only a handful of lawyers throughout America were willing to accept the challenge to use their legal talents to eliminate racial segregation in the public schools. That was due in part to the fact that the lawyers who did were often uncompensated or greatly under compensated for their legal services. By example, for 24 of Dawson’s 27 years as counsel for the Plaintiffs in the case of Manning vs The School Board of Hillsborough County, he was not compensated for his legal work. Those few lawyers were like soldiers on the front-line of the fierce and extended battle for justice and equality.
This school-naming honor just happened to coincide with Dawson’s celebration of 50 years in the active practice of law after his admission to the Florida Bar in 1967. He is a Past President of The National Bar Association; recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Florida A&M University; recognized by Ebony as one of “The 100 Most Influential Blacks in America;” and is a Past National President of the Howard University School Alumni Association.
Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson, Jr. is the Presiding Prelate of the 11th Episcopal District. He attended and graduated from the public schools of Hillsborough County, Florida School District.