Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LOU RITTER; History's Right Side

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LOU RITTER; History's Right Side

Article excerpt

The measure of a man: Does he leave the world a better place?

Does he give his children better opportunities than he had?

And for a mayor, with the hindsight of several decades, did he fight against injustice? Did he help create economic opportunities for generations of city residents?

By those measures, Lou Ritter was a successful mayor. He died late Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 84.

A look back at his career in public service, which peaked in the 1960s, shows he was on the right side of history in two key areas.

ADVANCED CIVIL RIGHTS

In a time when it wasn't all that popular to advance civil rights in the South, Mr. Ritter was a trailblazer for justice for Jacksonville's African-Americans.

There was talk in 1960 that a cross burning was expected at his house because Ritter had appointed a black woman to a city board.

A newspaper story surmised that Mr. Ritter might be remembered as the man who avoided race riots in Jacksonville. Sadly, avoiding a disaster rarely goes down in history.

His door was open to African-Americans, and not just a few select leaders, but teenagers, too.

He campaigned for housing codes to deal with slums, codes which were already common in the South and Florida but had not been fully implemented in Jacksonville

In the 1967 election, Mr. Ritter gained about 74 percent of the African-American vote, The Times-Union reported.

BATTLED FOR AIRPORT

And his battles to create a new airport on the Northside helped to produce an economic engine for Northeast Florida.

It is hard to believe today, but many people opposed a bond issue to build a new airport.

It took three attempts before voters approved the bond issue in 1965.

If the airport were going to be named for anyone, Mr. Ritter deserves it.

Mr. Ritter's role in Jacksonville history has been lost, since he was followed as mayor by the George Washington of consolidated government, Hans Tanzler. …

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