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Speeches and Floor Statements

LTC. James Hammond USA (Ret.)

Madam Speaker, I rise today in admiration and respect to honor the life of true civil rights champion, James Hammond.   Retired Lt. Col. U.S. Army James Hammond was born on November 11th - Veterans Day, a fitting beginning for a man who would give so much to our state and our country.  A pioneering civil rights leader, Mr. Hammond helped shape my hometown of Tampa and we will remember his legacy for the stands he took, the differences he made and the lives he touched.

Born in Tampa, FL, Mr. Hammond graduated from Middleton High School and later attended Hampton University earning a degree in electrical engineering.   He served his country in the U.S. Army in Texas, Germany, England and Washington, rising all the way to the rank of lieutenant colonel.  While serving in the army he created the Hammond Electric Company.   He became Tampa's first African-American, licensed, class-A electrical contractor.  He would go on to use his experience in business to help create the Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan – working to bring affordable housing and business incubators to underserved areas.  

Mr. Hammond served as the First Commissioner of Community Relations for the City of Tampa.  In that role he was tasked with working towards racial equality during the mid-60s.  He worked to bring people together, while constantly pushing our community to improve.  His work led to more training and jobs for African-Americans in city government.  He partnered with U.S. Congressman Sam Gibbons to secure a federal grant to create our county’s first preschool program.  He worked to integrate Tampa’s downtown businesses.  Where there was discrimination, he worked for change; where there was injustice, he worked to overcome it; and where there was an opportunity to improve the lives of his neighbors, he seized on it.

Mr. Hammond’s commitment to education lasted throughout his life.  He and his beloved wife Evelyne established a scholarship fund at their alma mater, Hampton University.  At the elementary school named for him, students and families would often see him at school events.  As Hammond Elementary School principal Sheri Norkas described, "He would tell the students to repeat after him, and they happily repeated, 'I will be somebody.’” 

Mr. Hammond was part of the fabric of the Tampa community, helping improve lives every day.  He served as Chairman of the Civil Service Board, District Chairman Boy Scouts of America, Board of Director Member of The Greater Tampa Urban League, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Community Federal Savings and Loan Association.  He was a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the NAACP.  He has been honored on this floor before, when my friend Congressman Alcee Hastings proclaimed May 4th as National James A. Hammond Day.

Madame Speaker, on behalf of America, the citizens of Florida and my neighbors across Tampa Bay, I am proud to honor James Hammond for his courage and selfless devotion to the people in our country and our community.  The time and energy he put in to improving the lives of every person he met are unmatched.  Today, we all pledge to carry on his work and practice what he preached, the “Three P’s” of patience, persistence and positive thinking.   He lifted up others and inspired our greater Tampa community to bridge our differences for the benefit of all.  He walked humbly and was full of grace.  Thank you.