Gwen Cherry

Gwendolyn "Gwen" Sawyer Cherry (August 27, 1923 – February 7, 1979) was a teacher, state legislator, educator, and lawyer in Florida. As an African American, much of her career was pioneering. Cherry was a founder of the National Association of Black Women Attorneys.[1] Gwen was a member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority.

Gwen Cherry
Gwen Cherry
Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry

August 27, 1923
DiedFebruary 7, 1979(1979-02-07) (aged 55)
Cause of deathautomobile accident
Occupationpolitician, educator, legislator, attorney
Spouse(s)Robert Sawyer, 19531979, her death

Early life

Cherry was born in Miami, Florida. She attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) where she received her undergraduate degree and, later, her Juris Doctorate. She taught in the Miami Public Schools for more than 20 years, and she also served as a law professor at FAMU.[2] She was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1965, and she became the first African-American woman to practice law in Dade County.[3]

Political career

After careers as a teacher and a lawyer, Cherry was elected to the Florida House in 1970, becoming the first African-American woman to serve as a state legislator in Florida.[4] During her four terms, she introduced the Equal Rights Amendment and the Martin Luther King, Jr. state holiday, chaired the state's committee for International Women's Year in 1978, and co-authored Portraits in Color: the Lives of Colorful Negro Women with Pauline Willis and Ruby Thomas.[5][6] She also chaired the Minority Affairs Committee for the Democratic National Convention and the National Women's Political Caucus in 1972 while serving as legal counsel for the National Organization for Women (NOW)'s Miami chapter.[3]


Cherry died in a Tallahassee car accident in February 1979. In his eulogy, former state governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham called Gwen Cherry "a champion for the rights of all people and a voice of reason and concern." She was inducted, posthumously, into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame in 1986. FAMU's College of Law dedicated a lecture hall in her name. Miami-Dade County, Florida named a park after her which dedicates itself to helping educate children and helping at-risk youths.[7] The Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association (GSCBWLA) formed in 1985 to address the concerns of women lawyers in the community. While it was originally called the National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division Dade County Chapter, it was decided in 2005 to be renamed in Cherry's honor.?[8]


  1. Davis, Marianna W., ed. (1982). Contributions of Black Women to America. 1. Columbia, South Carolina: Kenday Press, Inc. p. 465. ISBN 9993222674.
  2. Fields, Dorothy Jenkins. "Black in Time: Gwen Cherry's enduring legacy creates opportunities". Miami Herald. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  3. "Gwendolyn S. Cherry « Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association". Archived from the original on December 3, 2013.
  4. Morris, Allen (1971–72). The Florida Handbook. p. 171.
  5. "Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry".
  6. Cherry, Gwendolyn (July 15, 1962). "Portraits in Color: The Lives of Colorful Negro Women". Pageant Press via Google Books.
  7. "Miami-Dade County – Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces – Gwen Cherry Park NFL/YET Center".
  8. "Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association - Our History".

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