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Lucas, Florence V. (1916–1987)

Florence V. Lucas, lawyer, politician, NAACP leader, and songwriter, was born in 1916 in New York City, New York. She graduated from John Adams High School, Hunter College, and Brooklyn Law School. After graduating from law school in 1940, she became the first black woman from Queens to be admitted to the bar and the first black woman assigned murder cases in the Queens Borough Prosecutor’s Office. In 1941, however, she became the enforcement attorney for the Office of Price Administration (OPA) in the President Franklin Roosevelt Administration in Washington, D.C. 

In 1946 Lucas returned to New York, locating in the Jamaica section of Queens where she opened a private practice. In 1952 she became the secretary of the Queens Women’s Bar Association. By that point, she had decided as a courtesy to the community to represent young people accused of crimes on a pro bono basis. Lucas was elected president of the Jamaica, Queens NAACP in 1953. She later became director of the New York State Conference of the NAACP and state membership chair in 1957. During her tenure as membership chair, the Jamaica NAACP branch grew from 391 in 1953 to 3,600 members by 1959.

In 1966 Lucas was appointed special assistant to the Human Rights Division of the State Attorney General’s Office by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. During her tenure, she revised the state’s human rights legislation and developed procedures for its enforcement. She later became the assistant commissioner for new state office of human rights in 1971 and rose to become the deputy commissioner of the state agency. Lukas retired in 1975.

A dedicated club woman, Lucas maintained membership in the Republican Business and Professional Women of Queens, National Council of Negro Women, Merrick Community Center, the Urban League, the Salvation Army, and the Lighthouse, a social service agency.  Lucas was also involved in her church and taught Sunday school and choir at Brooks Memorial Methodist Church in South Jamaica where she also wrote songs for the choir.

Lucas won several awards including the National Council for Negro Women’s Certificate of Merit, Negro Business and Professional Women Community Service Award, and the Delta Beta Zeta Sorority Finer Womanhood Award and was placed on the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Scroll of Honor.

Lucas first married in the 1950s and had a son. Her first husband’s name is unknown. They divorced and she later married D. Rex Edwards. She adopted two children, Ralph Barkley and Freda Muldoon. Lucas died in September of 1987 at the age of seventy-one.

Sources:
“Florence Lucas, Obituary,” New York Times, September 9, 1987, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/09/obituaries/florence-lucas-dead-at-71-worked-for-rights-division.html; The Crisis, February 1960.

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University of Texas, El Paso

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