MIAMI — A Miami area post office that opened some 50 years ago during the Kennedy administration took on special significance for South Florida’s history when the building was officially named for a pacesetting attorney, politician and civil rights activist.
The Little River Post Office at 140 N.E. 84th St. was dedicated to the memory of Jesse James McCrary Jr. during a ceremony in which family and friends recalled the legacy of the man who died in 2007 at age 70.
“I view this as recognition for his service to the community,” said his widow Margaret McCrary. "Her husband, she said, had been “a wonderful, wonderful husband and a very dedicated and caring father.”
She was joined by the couple’s daughter Jessica McCrary Campbell and her husband Donovan Campbell for the ribbon cutting ceremony and installation of a plaque to mark the occasion. A painting of McCrary was displayed at the outdoor ceremony.
The dedication came a year after President Barack Obama signed a law enabling the renaming of the building.
Congressional approval is required for naming of federal buildings.
Then Congressman Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., sponsored the enabling legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2010.
The initial suggestion for renaming the post office came from Miami attorney H.T. Smith who contacted Meek shortly after McCrary’s death.
Smith had a prior engagement and could not attend the dedication.
He told the South Florida Times Wednesday that he saw the renaming as an appropriate way to honor the legacy of the man who had served in the military and in public service.
Meek called McCrary “one of the outstanding barristers of our time.” His successor in Congress, Frederica Wilson, praised Meek for “the tireless efforts” to make it possible.
McCrary was “a wonderful, wonderful local legend,” Wilson said at the dedication ceremony Friday. He was “a brilliant man,” added Jo Ann Feindt, U.S.P.S. vice president of Area Operations for the Southern Area.
The honor of having the post office named after McCrary is “a huge, huge tribute to the family,” said Feindt.
McCrary was a native of Blitchton. He graduated from Howard Academy in Ocala and attended Florida A&M University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a law degree. He argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court; in the cases he argued before the Florida Supreme Court, he was undefeated.
He was a pacesetter, as Florida’s first black assistant attorney general, the first black Florida secretary of state since Reconstruction and a judge for the state Industrial Claims Commission. He was also the first black lawyer to represent Miami-Dade County Public Schools, one of the largest public school systems in the country.
During the ceremony, students from the Jesse J. McCrary Elementary School, 514 N.W. 77th St., Miami, named after him, sang a song written by music teacher Rosena Norelus, which says, in part, “We are one of the best public schools.”
*Pictured above are from front left, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Jessica McCrary-Campbell and Margaret McCrary celebrate the renaming of the West Little River Post Office for the late Jesse J. McCrary Jr. on Friday. Jessica’s spouse Donovan Campbell stands behind her, and former Congressman Kendrick Meek, who introduced a bill to make it possible, is at right rear.