The City of Riviera Beach has a long history of black achievement ‘firsts’—both in Palm Beach County and the state of Florida. Many factors apply, but it surely has something to do with the fact that according to the U.S. Census, the city’s black population doubled between 1950 and 1970. In fact, the city’s overall population mushroomed an astounding 221 percent between the 1950s and 1960s and, by the 1970s, the city’s 21,401 residents were, for the first time, predominately black.
The first ‘first’ was F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. who, in 1962, became the first black elected official in the nine-state South since Reconstruction when he was elected as the first black member of the all-white Riviera Beach City Council.
Here is a list of other Riviera Beach black achievement firsts:
- In 1969, Richard C. Wester became the first black fireman hired in all of Palm Beach County. Later, he would become the first black fire chief in Florida.
- In 1971, the city itself became the first integrated city in Florida to have a majority black City Council, when James Jones, David Williams and Dorsey Lee joined incumbents Bobbie E. Brooks and Henry Taylor.
- In 1971, William ‘Boone’ Darden was named the City’s police chief, the first black one in the state of Florida.
- Also in 1971, Ada Reed became the first black city clerk.
- In 1975, City Councilman Bobbie E. Brooks was elected as the city’s first black mayor.
- In 1976, Ronald Davis was named city manager, becoming the first black in Riviera Beach, Palm Beach County and the state of Florida to hold the title.
- In 1977, Edward Rodgers was named the first black Circuit Court judge in Palm Beach County, one of several firsts for this former long-time city resident. Previously, he was also Palm Beach County’s first black prosecutor and first black county judge.
- And in 1987, Clara K. Williams became the city’s first black female mayor, serving six terms before retiring in 1999.
The City of Riviera Beach is celebrating its 95th birthday from 3p.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturday, September 30, 2017. Come join the party and learn more about this wonderful little city by the sea! Visitwww.RBTasteFest.net for more information and to purchase tickets.
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