Johnnie M. Parris was a trailblazer, civil rights activist, community organizer and mother of eight children. She spent decades serving the community in her unrelenting pursuit of justice and educational equality and changing the racial landscape in Florida.
To facilitate political empowerment for the disenfranchised, she founded organized, and was the President of Dade County, Florida's first chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)––an organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King to help organize local school integration efforts––which enabled her to become a field secretary to Dr. King for many years.
As the chief spokesperson for the Richmond Heights Citizens Committee, she organized and led the coalition that halted the construction of a de-facto segregated elementary school in 1965. Mrs. Parris established, ran, and guided the community coalition that resulted in the construction of Colonial Drive Elementary school in 1966. In recognition of Mrs. Parris’ impactful Civil Rights work, Colonial Drive Elementary was renamed in her honor to the Johnnie M. Parris Colonial Drive Elementary School
She served on the Board of Directors for the Council on Human Relations and was instrumental in organizing busloads of Florida citizens to participate in the March on Washington in 1968.
She worked closely with former Florida Governors William Haydon Burns, D. Robert (Bob) Graham, and Lawton Chiles. She ran for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives and received a distinguished invitation to the Presidential Inauguration of Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States