Today, attorney Eugene K. Pettis will be sworn-in as the first black president of the Florida Bar Association. He will lead America’s second-largest state bar with over 95,000 lawyers. Pettis was born to a family of seven children. He was educated in Fort Lauderdale during the end of the Civil Rights Movement.
Pettis was faced with racism as early as twelve years old. In an all-black school with all-white faculty, he was given 67 lashes with a leather strap by two school coaches for simply running in the hallway. After being taken to an all-white school, Pettis had to defend himself daily.
“They both beat me so hard and so many times I lost count and could barely catch my breath. I was out of my mind. I was so torn up. I got home and pulled my pants down. All my buttocks and back were bruised. My dad, who was usually a quiet man, wanted to kill them,” Pettis recalled. (flcourier.com)
As a result, Pettis’ court battles now consist of crusades against cyber-bullying in schools. He has mentioned that his other reason for choosing law was at his mother’s urging that he “talked too much.”
Soon after law school, Pettis became the first African American appointed to the South Florida Water Management District’s governing board. His breakthrough case came in 1994, when Pettis defended a hospital in South Florida against a major medical malpractice suit relating to a brain injury of a baby. Within four months, Pettis had won the case. Five months later, he won the appeal.
Eugene Pettis is a member at both the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Board of Trial Advocates; two organizations that require invitations. His client list has grown to companies including Exxon, Starbucks, the Broward Sheriff ’s Office and the Broward School District. He and his wife are champions of the Sara Jones Pettis Scholarship Fund and the Pettis Family Endowment, both of which help kids go and stay in school through scholarship.
Eugene K. Pettis will be sworn in as the Florida Bar Association’s new president today, June 28, 2013, at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, which is hosting the Bar Association’s annual convention.