Perry Harvey Jr., first African-American Tampa councilman, passes away at 81

5:35 PM, Sep 13, 2012   |    comments
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Perry Harvey Jr.
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Tampa, Florida -- A Tampa icon is being remembered for his civil rights work and commitment to those he served.  

Perry Harvey Jr. passed away this week at the age of 81. In 1983 he became the first African-American elected to the Tampa city council. He went on to serve on the city council from 1983 to 1995.

Those who knew him say his impact on this city was immense and his loyalty to his friends unwavering.

"If Perry Harvey was in a foxhole with you, Perry Harvey wasn't leaving," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

Buckhorn first met Harvey in the mid-80's. He says Harvey was a person who fought hard for minorities and small businesses.

"He was of the old school and wasn't shy about banging on the dais to make sure that his voice was heard and for him his passion was always as an elected official, making sure that the minority community and the African-American community got its fair share."

The son of the head of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1402 Harvey and his dad were political powerbrokers in the city.

But while Harvey made history as the first African-American elected to the city council, longtime friend and current councilman Frank Reddick says that's not what Harvey would want to be remembered for.

"I think he wanted to be known as the African American who made things possible for the black community and I think he also wanted to be remembered as someone who advocated for all the black causes whether that was economic, improving neighborhoods, making sure young folks get a chance to go to school. I think he'd want to be known for that more so than the first African American to sit on city council," Reddick said.

During his tenure on city council, Harvey was indicted, but later acquitted on embezzlement charges.

While the case was pending in 1991 Harvey was suspended by the Governor but returned once the case was resolved.

In 1996 Harvey lost in a race for Hillsborough County Commission but by then his legacy was already cemented.

"I don't think they'll ever be another Perry Harvey but I think we're better because he walked amongst us," Buckhorn added.

Funeral services for Harvey are set for a week from Saturday on September 22nd at the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

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