TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Claude Pepper, the South Florida congressman known as a champion for the rights of the elderly, was named Monday by Governor Scott to the new Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame. He joined two others honored for their efforts to champion Human Rights in Florida.
Pepper spent 26 years in the US House of Representatives representing South Florida until he died, still in office, in 1989. Before that, he served as US Senator from Florida from 1936 tp 1951.
While in office, he became known as a champion of the elderly, especially in his later years in the House. In Miami, an elderly housing complex bears his name, and in his role as the Chair of the House Select Committee on Aging, he was able to strengthen Medicare, and helped extend the solvency of Social Security by raising the retirement age for eligibility.
Mandatory retirement was once a standard practice in most businesses, forcing people who did not want to leave their job to retire against their will. Pepper led the fight against that, eventually winning the elimination of most mandatory retirement provisions.
Governor Scott also named Mary McLeod Bethune and the Rev. C.K. Steele. Bethune established the school now known as Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, and Steele organized a boycott that ended segregation on Tallahassee city buses.
The Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame honors individuals who were born in Florida or adopted the state as their home. They will be honored with plaques to hang on a wall of honor in the Capitol rotunda.