Civil rights, Lawyers, Community Activists
Fred Gillam Minnis, a local civil rights icon, was a man of his kind during his sojourn on this earth. Against all odds and prejudice against black people, Minnis fought to free black people from racial discrimination.
Theodore Parker’s famous poetic quote, “the arc of the moral universe is long yet it bends toward justice,” defines Minnis’ persona. It took long before Minnis could bring radical changes in achieving justice, but he accomplished multitudes.
Early life and Education
Fred G. Minnis, a scholar and civil rights advocate, was born in 1912 in Miami. He attended Howard University in Washington D.C. and, in 1932, obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science. In 1934, he received a master’s degree award in political science.
In 1950, Mr. Minnis went back to Howard University to pursue a law degree. He later worked as a legal adviser in the National Office of Price Stabilization, the enforcement division of the War Claims Commission.
Fred G. Minnis married Frankie Minnis, and they had two sons, Charles and Fred G. Jr. At the time of his death, he had three grandchildren.
Booker T. Washington High School’s first-class had Minnis as their president. He was engaged in debating activities and played baseball, football, basketball, and track.
Minnis later earned a master’s degree in law at Georgetown University. He taught at the University’s Law School, where he ranked among the highest-paid law professors with this qualification.
He resigned when he realized that his yearly earning was lower than the lowest-paid counterpart white law professor at the University of Florida.
Full-time Law Practice
He opened his own law office. In 1956, Fred G. Minnis launched his first-time law practice in St. Petersburg. It was challenging to kick off like any other business, but nothing stopped him.
He made history and became the first African American lawyer to set up a full-time practice in St. Petersburg. Minnis became a legend of Black lawyers in Pinellas County and became known as the “grandfather of African American lawyers.”
Minnis’ full-time practice in St. Petersburg benefited other black law graduates as legal clerks. He mentored and provided clerical opportunities for other African American lawyers.
Fred G. Minnis supported Howard University’s law school. As a result, the University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Law degree in 1988. As a lawyer and a community leader, he worked hard to make life better for African Americans in St. Petersburg.
He mentored many Black attorneys. This earned him prestige as a beacon of biracial progress and a dean of Black lawyers in Pinellas County.
Honoring Civil Rights Leader
No man is honored for what he receives but for what he gives. In 2000, Fred G. Minnis Sr. Bar Association was established. This is a crime and legal-related professional societies and associations. It remains the only predominantly Black voluntary bar association in the county, named in honor of Minnis.
A report by the Tampa Bay Times reveals that on March 9, 2021, the Pinellas County Commissioners voted unanimously to rename Pinellas Law Library after Fred G. Minnis, Sr. This happened in honor of the first full-time Black lawyer in the County.
The library’s mission was to empower the public and legal communities with the tools and resources necessary to make informed decisions. The library resolved to change its name to Fred Minnis to reinforce this because he changed and inspired many lives.
Death of Civil Rights Icon
Fred G. Minnis died of cancer at 81 on April 16, 1991, at Bay Pines VA Medical Center. He left a legacy that encouraged and inspired other black lawyers and college students.
When Martin Luther King spoke about justice, he said that injustice anywhere jeopardizes justice everywhere.” Fred G. Minnis fought for justice for the blacks. He had a complete understanding that whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Minnis has since become a source of inspiration to many legal professionals.
The Black Male Archives
- I AM: Fred G. Minnis, Sr.
- Pinellas law library to be named after county’s first Black lawyer
- Fred G. Minnis, Sr. Bar Association
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