Though she left us a little over 20 years ago, on May 14, 1998; Marjory Stoneman Douglas remains a giant in our Nation’s, State’s and our community’s memory.
Of course, most of us remember her as the “Mother of the Everglades” for her activism and writings, which forced the end of the destructive draining of the Florida Everglades. Because of her, this unique, life-supporting natural wonder has survived for all humanity to treasure and learn from.
Long before her landmark environmental achievement, she championed so many just and inspiring causes. She was a leading suffragette and actually was first women from Florida to enlist in the Armed Services and actually served in the Red Cross during WWI.
After the War, she began writing for the Miami Herald (started by her father, Frank Stoneman). She used her daily column (called “The Gallery”) to expose both social as well as environmental injustice.
She used her platform to focus on the need for running water and sewage treatment in the early days of what was then a burgeoning frontier outpost. She called attention to the unequal treatment and inadequate services in what was then segregated sections our county.
She was a forceful opponent of “Slumlands” and highlighted the need for child nutrition as well.
In 1970, as a young lawyer, I met Marjory and asked her to be part of a team to get Gov. Rubin Askew and the Florida Cabinet to purchase the historic Arch Creek Natural Bridge and Hammock (135thStreet and Biscayne Blvd.) in order to save it from becoming a Chrysler Car Lot. With Marjorie by my side, there was no way they could say no (Joni Mitchell even wrote a song about it).
On April 8, 1990, I had the humbling honor to serve as Master of Ceremonies at her 100th Birthday Celebration, rightly held at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Nature Center on Key Biscayne.
I introduced her as “a child of the 1890’s and role model for the 1990’s and beyond”. She is exactly that –even in the wake of tragedy.
Marjorie passed in 1998 at the ever so sprite age of 108. She had been presented with our Nation’s highest honor –the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993. Her incredible grit in always speaking truth to power lives on.
Her wonderful name now has become even more widely known; unfortunately, due to the unspeakable tragedy at the High School that bears her name on Valentine’s Day 2018.
She would be so proud of the student body for its outspoken idealism and persistence since that fateful day that took 17 (now 19) young lives from us.
Her words live on. And how uncanny and relevant her words, written so long ago: “Be a nuisance when it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your actions. Be depressed, discouraged and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics – but never give up! “
Harvey Ruvin has been Clerk of the Courts in Miami Dade County since 1992.