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Judge Edward Rodgers

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Judge Edward Rodgers

After serving in the Navy Hospital Corps during World War II, Edward Rodgers (1927-) attended Howard University on the GI Bill. There he was able to observe civil rights activists such as Thurgood Marshall, and met and married Gwendolyn Baker of West Palm Beach. They settled here in 1950.

As a teacher at Roosevelt High School, Rodgers protested unequal pay for black teachers, which led him to enroll in law school to do more for equal rights. He was accepted by University of Miami until they learned he was black, and instead he headed for Florida A&M in Tallahassee.

At FAMU Rodgers started achieving “firsts” as first in his class of six (including future federal judge and Congressman Alcee Hastings). He practiced briefly with F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. before starting his own practice on Rosemary Avenue as the fifth black lawyer in the county. In 1964 State Attorney Marvin Mounts appointed Rodgers the first African American county prosecutor. Then he quickly moved to the county’s first black assistant state attorney and first African American judge, then Florida’s first black circuit court judge, where he was chief judge for a time. Between appointments, from his private practice, Rodgers forced desegregation by suing the Children’s Home of Juvenile Court and the West Palm Beach Police Department.

In 1991 Judge Rodgers achieved his greatest personal achievement: the first Drug Court in Riviera Beach, which was then replicated in Delray Beach and West Palm Beach. Instead of watching drug and alcohol abusers going to jail, their concerned family and friends could initiate a hearing to consider treatment instead. A year later the prestigious Jefferson Award at the U.S. Supreme Court recognized this effort by Rodgers.

Since retiring from the law in 1995, Judge Rodgers has received other awards and served on special commissions. In Riviera Beach, where he lives and served as city councilman and mayor, the Post Office was renamed for Edward Rodgers in 2004.

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