M. Athalie Range dedicated her life to public service, first by crusading for civil rights, then by serving as the first African American on the Miami City Commission.
Her legacy lived on Sunday night, when the foundation that bears her name honored some of Miami’s top civic leaders.
“We’re very proud to honor folks who have picked up the mantle and put forth efforts to care for this community,” said Range’s grandson, Patrick Range II.
The honorees are:
• Attorney H.T. Smith, who specializes in civil rights, personal injury and criminal defense, and was the founding President of the Black Lawyers Association of Dade County, now known as the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association;
• Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce President Bill Diggs, who also serves on the boards of The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, South Florida Workforce and The Children’s Trust;
• Attorney Marlon Hill, who has been honored for his efforts as a young leader and was selected for the inaugural class of the Miami Foundation’s Miami Fellows Initiative, and;
• Civic Leader Thelma Gibson, whose Thelma Gibson Health Initiative provides free testing and assistance for people with HIV and AIDS, and who has promoted the arts and education in low-income neighborhoods.
“Some of these people have been pioneers; some are up-and-comers,” Patrick Range II said. “All have been activists in our community.”
Before serving as a city commissioner, M. Athalie Range fought to desegregate Dade County public schools. She went on to have a long career in public service that included a stint as director of the Florida Department of Community Affairs — the highest position a woman had ever held in state government.
She died in 2006.
The M. Athalie Range Cultural Foundation seeks to foster a strong appreciation for the visual and performing arts. The foundation provides scholarships to local students interested in pursuing the arts.