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Room 119B Civil Rights Audio Transcript

The exhibits in this room focus on the Civil Rights Movement in Florida and some of the important civil rights cases in Florida’s courts. During the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King demanded an end to laws that provided different treatment for minorities, especially African-Americans. In Florida, boycotts, protests and legal actions brought about slow change toward equality. The panel underneath the window discusses Virgil Hawkins’ long struggle through the Courts, to gain admission into the University of Florida Law School. The large mural and other images are photographs of civil rights protests that took place in Tallahassee in the 1960s.

This room is located on the southeast corner of the building on the first floor. It has two large windows, one looking out at the stately moss-covered oak trees and the second overlooking the rose garden. It is considered one of the most scenic offices at the Historic Capitol. Looking out the south window you can see the Senate Office Building and R.A. Gray Park. During the Presidential Election in 2000, many of the national broadcasts concerning the votes in Florida were performed right outside this window in this portion of the courtyard.

Almost one hundred years earlier in 1902, this room was an office for one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Florida. One of those Justices was Robert Cockrell, who served on the Court from 1902 to 1917. Originally from Alabama, he received three degrees from the University of Virginia including one in law. Admitted to the Florida bar in 1891, he practiced law in Jacksonville with his father and two brothers until Governor Jennings appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1902. There was as unfounded rumor that Governor Jennings had meant to appoint one of his brothers to the Court and Robert’s name was mistakenly put on the Certificate of Appointment. In reality, his families’ law firm had powerful political connections in the state and lobbied hard for Robert. Regardless of the reasons behind his appointment, Robert Cockrell served with distinction on the Court authoring many opinions and taking on the powerful railroad interests. When he left the Court in 1917, he taught law at the University of Florida until his retirement.