Jacksonville civil rights icon Lloyd Pearson reflected on his 102 years during a December 6, 2023 conversation with Jacksonville Today.

Jacksonville civil rights patriarch Lloyd Pearson dies at 102

Published on December 18, 2023 at 9:48 pm

Lloyd Pearson Jr., the grand old man of Jacksonville’s civil rights struggle, died Sunday afternoon. He was 102.

“He loved people. He loved his church. He enjoyed working in the community to help making things better for our people,” his daughter Delores Pearson Baker told Jacksonville Today. “He was so passionate about voting because he saw that as a way to make our lives better by electing people who would do right by our community.”

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He was the oldest child of Lloyd and Hattie Pearson. He was born in Jacksonville’s Durkeeville neighborhood on Nov. 2, 1921.

Pearson was born a year to the day after the Ocoee Massacre — when members of the Ku Klux Klan terrorized Black residents in Florida’s Orange County after a handful of them voted in the 1920 presidential election.

Pearson devoted decades to ensuring Jacksonville’s Black residents were registered to vote. And his volunteerism opened his eyes. 

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“There were so many things that I’ve seen and went to because I got involved with civil rights and the NAACP,” Pearson told Jacksonville Today in a wide-ranging interview weeks before his death. “There are so many things that I wouldn’t talk about unless somebody asked me.”

At his daughter Delores’ home in North Jacksonville, he sat on a sofa detailing his childhood growing up on McConihe Street, ferry rides across the St. Johns River, playing basketball for Coach James Small at Stanton High School.

Small led Stanton’s basketball team to consecutive Florida Interscholastic Athletic Association titles in 1936 and 1937. But, in Pearson’s senior year, in 1939, the FIAA didn’t hold a state tournament. Nevertheless, he smiled at the memory of being a super sub for Small and traveling all over the peninsula to play.

“My father kept it so I didn’t realize the effects of segregation until I was about almost in high school. We had a Black neighborhood. My father kept us away from the effects (of segregation). My mother never worked…my daddy didn’t want her to work because a lot of Black folks were going into Riverside and white men were taking advantage of them.”

Pearson’s activism started in the 1940s when he heard local politicians use the n-word in their quest to get elected. Toward the end of his life, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with local politicians as they honored his family’s legacy.

Pearson was nearly 20 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, which prohibited discrimination in the defense industry and government because of race, creed, color or national origin in June 1941.

The move allowed scores of African Americans across the country to obtain higher-paying jobs. Pearson says that was certainly the case in his hometown.

“Jacksonville was strictly segregated and even discriminating when it comes down to the work that Blacks could do,” Pearson said. “The government gave better jobs than any of the commercial companies. The other companies discriminated much heavier.”

“When the government gradually allowed us to do a lot more, they still segregated. We couldn’t hold the same. Even when they hired Blacks, Blacks could only do certain work,” he said. 

For example, when Pearson began a 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service in the 1940s, Black men could only be letter carriers, but not clerks.

Pearson left Edward Waters College during his sophomore year to work. After a stint with the Railway Mail Service, he spent about two years working in the Jacksonville Shipyards before returning to the post office and eventually retiring in 1977.

In 1946, President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9808, which investigated whether civil rights protections were actually being provided by federal, state and local government. Pearson said he will never forget in 1947 when a federal investigator spoke with local officials.

Following that conversation, nearly two dozen Black letter carriers became clerks. Some of them were later promoted to supervisor roles.

Today, the Pearson name hangs atop the Jacksonville post office on Kings Road. The Rutledge Pearson Post Office Building was named for Lloyd Pearson’s youngest brother in 2018.

“It means a lot. I’m (also) disappointed. I wish it would be large up there (on the building.) They have it hanging on a sign…I was hoping they would put his name up top,” he said. 

Lloyd Pearson was immensely proud of his youngest brother.

Shortly after Rutledge Pearson, who was nearly eight years younger than Lloyd, graduated from Houston-Tillotson College with a bachelor’s in political science in 1951, Lloyd Pearson became more active in the fight for civil rights.

Lloyd Pearson (center) at the August 2023 reopening of Rutledge Pearson Elementary in the Harborview neighborhood. | Courtesy: Duval County Public Schools

Rutledge Pearson served as president of the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP. He inspired students to get engaged in the fight for civil rights in the 1950s, activism which led racists to bludgeon peaceful protesters in Downtown Jacksonville on what became remembered as Ax Handle Saturday. 

Current Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin says Lloyd Pearson will be dearly missed. Rumlin recalls that when Pearson said he would do something, his word was his bond.

Rumlin says Pearson’s work to register scores of Black Jaxsons to vote is part of the local civil right patriarch’s legacy. In his 102 years, Pearson experienced Black voter disenfranchisement, sought to eradicate it and lived long enough to see a Black person elected president and a Black woman elected vice president.

“He was a voice in this community that will be missed,” Rumlin says. “He was one that believed in the power of the vote, by registering over 50,000 folks during his lifespan. I don’t think that will be matched anytime soon. He believed in civil rights. He believed in equality for all mankind.”

Lloyd and Mildred Pearson raised six children. He is survived by Delores Pearson Baker, Barbara Pearson McCreary, Alvin Pearson, Lucy Pearson and Gregory Pearson Sr. Lloyd III preceded him in death.

Lucy Pearson, Lloyd Pearson and Delores Pearson Baker in December of 2023 | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Baker says her father was just as active in the Presbyterian Church as he was in the fight for civil rights. He was a Sunday school teacher at Laura Street Presbyterian Church, then Woodlawn Presbyterian Church, for decades. She says he “loved life and people and doing what he could when he saw a need.”

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland notes the banner of Pearson’s Facebook page stressed the importance of voting.

On Monday, Holland said one thing he appreciates is Pearson did not let people forget how much progress has been made in terms of accessing the ballot in his lifetime.

“What’s so important in what he was doing is, it’s one thing when we go out to schools and register students,” Holland says. “What he was doing was making contact with people. They respected him, saw (the) importance of voting and followed suit. It’s a compliment, because not everyone can influence someone to register to vote.”

“…It’s something that will obviously live beyond his life, the number of people he influenced and encouraged to be involved,” Holland says. 

Pearson was among a contingent of nearly three dozen Jaxsons who attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. He lit up when recalling that former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was on his train. Pearson says he did not meet Marshall, but sharing the same space in the fight for justice remained a core memory.

Today, Rumlin believes, only one local attendee of the March on Washington, Sandra Thompson, remains.

Rumlin and Pearson were colleagues in the fight for civil rights for 40 years. He says what he’ll most remember are their conversations at NAACP conferences and the Christmas cards that Pearson would give.

“When we look back on longevity, on what he’s gone through, what he’s seen and what he’s done, his legacy should be based on what he was able to accomplish over these 102 years,” Rumlin says. “Jacksonville should recognize that, not only as one of the oldest citizens in our city, but recognize him for his service to our city.”

author image Reporter Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at
author image Reporter Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at

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