BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Civil rights pioneer, Congressional Gold Medal recipient and local icon Jimmy Huger will be celebrating his centennial on Jan. 3 at the Daytona International Speedway 500 Club and helping local students at the same time.
The celebration, with about 500 guests, also will be a fundraiser for college scholarships in the name of Huger and his late wife, Phannye, whom he was married to for 67 years.
Born Jan. 4 1914, Huger graduated from Bethune-Cookman College in 1937 (then a junior college) and continued his education at West Virginia State earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a graduate degree from the University of Michigan. He wanted to go to the University of Florida, but at the time Blacks were not allowed to attend the state school.
Huger marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and attended his trial in Montgomery along with other members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. where both were members. Huger signed King’s certificate when he became a member of the fraternity.
First Black elected official
In an exclusive interview with the Daytona Times in 2012, he reflected on Daytona Beach and the segregation in the 1950s and 1960s.
“I was born and raised in the South. I knew about lynching and I knew about being called a nigger,” he said.
Dr. Richard V. Moore, who was the first Black appointed to a city-run committee – the Planning Board – came to Huger in 1965 and asked him to run for the Daytona Beach City Commission.
Before he made any major decisions, Huger said he always talked to his wife. When he was asked to run for city commission, he was hesitant to do so.
“I told her why I wasn’t running. How could I get elected with all these Whites (voting)?” Huger said.
“I give her credit. She said go ahead and try it,” Huger continued.
City, county leader
Huger would end up winning, becoming the city’s first Black elected official when commissioners were elected by citywide voting instead of zone voting as they do now.
He represented the City of Daytona Beach as a commissioner from 1965 to 1971.
He was the first Black to serve on the Volusia County Council, holding office from 1973 to 1978 and serving as chairman in 1975 and 1978. Huger also served as the city’s community development director from 1976 to 1994.
A former Marine, Huger also worked closely alongside Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and former President Jimmy Carter.
Medal of Honor
In 2012, Huger was among the six area residents who received the Congressional Medal of Honor as members of the Montford Point Marines. Huger served and trained at Montford Point Camp, a segregated training facility for Blacks from 1942 to 1949. The Montford Point Marines were the first Black Marine unit that served in the Pacific in World War II.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest civilian honor. The honor is bestowed by the president in the name of Congress.
The scholarship event and birthday celebration for Huger will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 3 at the Daytona International Speedway 500 Club, 1801 W. International Speedway Blvd.
For more information and tickets, call 760-530-6502.