Stephanie Murphy

02/25/2021 | Press release | Archived content

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Statement for the Congressional Record, Celebrating Black History Month and Honoring Arthenia Joyner

Mr. Speaker:

As part of our national celebration of Black History Month, I am paying tribute to African-American leaders from Florida who have made outstanding contributions to our community and our country. These accomplished men and women have not always received the recognition they have earned.

Today I rise to honor Arthenia Joyner.

Born in Lakeland and raised in Tampa, Ms. Joyner has been a champion for justice and equality from a young age, participating in her first civil rights demonstration as a high school junior in 1960. She studied political science at Florida A&M University, where she also earned her law degree.

Ms. Joyner served as a legal assistant to State Representative Joe Lang Kershaw, the first African-American state legislator in Florida since the Reconstruction era. After law firms refused to hire her, Ms. Joyner opened her own law practice in 1991. She was the first Black lawyer to practice in Polk County and the first Black woman to practice law in Hillsborough County.

Throughout her career, Ms. Joyner has worked to combat racial and gender inequality. In recognition of her efforts, she received multiple presidential appointments by President Bill Clinton, serving as a member of the U.S. delegation to the 1994 World Population Development Conference in Cairo and to the 1995 U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Ms. Joyner proudly participated in the 'Lawyers Against Apartheid Day' at the South African Embassy in Washington, DC on January 8, 1985, where she was arrested alongside former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and others.

Ms. Joyner was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, where she served from 2000 to 2006. She was then elected to the Florida Senate, serving until 2016. In 2014, she became the first Black woman chosen as Senate Majority Leader. Throughout her career as a legislator, Ms. Joyner distinguished herself for her skill, leadership, and commitment to her constituents.

Arthenia Joyner has spent a lifetime overcoming adversity, breaking barriers, and fighting for justice and equality.

I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring and celebrating Arthenia Joyner.