Most of the Florida congressional delegation has lined up behind U.S. Rep. Al Lawson’s, D-Fla., proposal to name a U.S. Post Office after a prominent civil rights leader.
Lawson’s bill to designate the United States Post Office at 1100 Kings Road in Jacksonville as the Rutledge Pearson Post Office has the support of Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSantis, Mario Diaz-Balart, Neal Dunn, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Francis Rooney, Tom Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross, John Rutherford and Dan Webster and Florida Democrats U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Frederica Wilson.
“Rutledge Pearson, a Jacksonville native, was an American history teacher, civil rights leader, and distinguished baseball player,” Lawson said on Wednesday when he showcased his proposal. “His legacy in Jacksonville, especially in the fight for civil rights, is long-lasting and this is a fitting way to honor his contributions to our community.”
A graduate of Tillatson College, where he was classmates with slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Pearson taught in Jacksonville. As Lawson noted, Pearson was an accomplished baseball player who played first base for the New York Black Yankees and the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro League. Pearson tried to move over to the majors but was denied a spot on the Jacksonville Beach Seabirds, a short lived team in the Florida League in the early 1950s, due to his race. Despite that, baseball remained a major part of Pearson’s life, including serving as a coach at New Stanton High School where he also taught history.
Pearson became active with the NAACP including being elected as president of the Jacksonville branch in 1961, including being profiled in a cover story in JET magazine in April 1964. Pearson also led the state conference of the NAACP. During his tenure with the NAACP, Pearson fought for civil rights in the Sunshine State, including in St. Augustine where he joined with Dr. Robert Hayling, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in its campaign in 1963-1964.
In 1967, Pearson was killed in a car accident in Tennessee. Last year, Pearson's older brother Lloyd told First Coast News that he suspected his brother had been murdered.
Pearson was named to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2016. He has been honored in Jacksonville with a bridge, an elementary school and a road named after him.