MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For 50 years T. Willard Fair has headed the Urban League of Greater Miami.   As the organization’s president since 1963, Fair has helped mentor and empower Miami’s black community.

In honor of that huge milestone about 200 people gathered at the Fountainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach Saturday night to celebrate.

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“I’ve been trying to make this a better place for all people to live.  Trying to make sure that as we go forward as a community, we leave nobody behind,” said Fair.

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Oliver Gross met Mr. Fair when he was just a young man, working with him at the Urban League now for nearly 20 years.  Gross says Fair helped guide him right out of college.   “Being able to understand the landscape, he took the time out of his very busy schedule, to embrace me, to reacquaint me with South Florida,” said Gross.  “I’m a Miami boy.  But again, things kind of changed a tad.   He just opened his arms with his time and his wisdom.”

Fair said things are worse now compared to how they were back in 1963 before the civil rights movement.  “Not different.  Not the same.  It’s worse.”  He said the most pervasive thing in his community right now is hopelessness.  That, hopelessness wasn’t there 50 years ago, the community believing new laws would be transformative.

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“Now, today’s youth and the parents don’t believe there’s a tomorrow,” he said.  “And it’s expressed in today’s violence.  In the high school dropout rates, etc.  So things are worse now.  I’m sorry to say that.  But that’s the reality.”  Fair insists changing that means telling children no matter what your circumstances, you can become successful.  “Everywhere you go the word ought to be, there is a tomorrow, and we can be there.”